"Basso did not tell me the truth," said Discovery Channel Team Manager Johan Bruyneel to La Gazzetta dello Sport while at the start of Giro d'Italia stage 2 in Tempio Pausania. The Belgian, along with Discovery team owners Lance Armstrong and Bill Stapleton, had worked hard to sign the Italian last fall after he had been linked to Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Bruyneel explained to La Gazzetta's Luigi Perna that the team did all it could to ensure that they were signing a rider who could compete without any legal problems.
"We signed him because his case was seemingly resolved, after the double shelving by CONI's lawyers and that of the Italian Federation," the 43 year-old noted. (There was only one "shelving," made by the Italian cycling federation (FCI) disciplinary commission at the recommendation of the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI). - ed.) "But when the investigation was reopened we took action and asked Ivan not to ride.
"Basso came to my house in Madrid and wanted to annul his contract with Discovery because he could no longer guarantee that the investigation could be closed with an acquittal. I was disappointed."
Bruyneel claimed that Basso had lied about his relationship with Fuentes and the surrounding Operación Puerto investigation. "Without doubt, he did not tell us the truth."
He has been working hard with his colleagues, Armstrong and Stapleton, to find a new sponsor for the team. Discovery Channel announced it would no longer sponsor the team starting with the end of 2007. "I have not talked at length with Lance in the last two weeks but I think that he is upset, like me and Stapleton. We had a project to construct a new team around a new leader, Basso."
"The only thing now is to think of finding someone to take the spot of Discovery at the end of the year," Bruyneel continued after being asked if he would ever re-sign Basso.
"I don't believe that it [Basso's case] will have an influence; we behaved correctly. If something comes to the contrary I am ready to confront it."
At the time of Basso's signing with Discovery the team was met with a barrage of backfire from many who believed that the team was acting in bad form. The International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) issued a statement following its December 8 decision to exclude the team from its group. "Discovery Channel didn't respect the rules. The ethical code is clear: a ProTour team should not sign a rider involved in the Puerto affair."
Further, some have suggested that the riders are the ones who take all the blame while the teams walk away wiping their hands of the mess.
"This changes nothing," said two-time World Champion Gianni Bugno after Basso's agreement to confess. "... it clearly confirms that it is the cyclists who always pay the price," said the Italian to tuttobiciweb.com. Bugno aimed his comments at Basso's teams, Discovery (2007) and Team CSC (2004 - 2006). "Is it possible that the teams and those who share a room with him [Basso's teammates] don't know anything?"
Today, CONI is expected to give its disciplinary recommendation to the FCI.