Thomas Dekker has quashed all rumours of the identity linked to the Operacion Puerto codename 'Clasicomano Luigi', putting his hand up and admitting it was him all along. After Dekker's former teammate Phil Gaimon posted about the link on Twitter, Dekker himself confirmed it to the press.
"Fuentes gave me that nickname," Dekker said to Humo. "That's me so, and no one else. I came in contact with Fuentes through my agent, Jacques Hanegraaf. He introduced me to Fuentes and Luigi Cecchini."
Dekker was a second-year professional with an overall win at Tirreno-Adriatico to his name when the Spanish Civil Guard raided the clinic of Eufemiano Fuentes in 2006, uncovering dozens of units of banked blood awaiting illegal performance-boosting transfusions. Along with the evidence, investigators found ledgers with code names linking doping schedules and blood bags to unnamed athletes.
Some codes were quickly deciphered - Ivan Basso was identified as 'Birillo', Alejandro Valverde as 'piti', purportedly the names of their dogs. Jorg Jaschke admitted his code, Bella, was the name of his dog. But blood bags labeled 'Clasicomano' (number 33), 'Clasicomano Luigi' (number 24) went unmatched to a rider despite damaging suspicions against Juan Antionio Flecha and Fabian Cancellara.
Tyler Hamilton, another Fuentes client, sparked suspicion that Cancellara could be 'Luigi' when he described his group heckling the person who used that code name at the 2008 Tour of California.
Hamilton and his Rock Racing team had been excluded from the race due to their links to Operacion Puerto. He and fellow Puerto suspects Santiago Botero and Oscar Sevilla decided to ride ahead of the race in protest. When Hamilton recounted the tale to Cyclingnews in 2013, the rumours about Cancellara, who was at the time vocal in his opposition to the stunt, resurfaced.
They persisted through to this year, when the Swiss rider won the Olympic Games time trial, Lance Armstrong tweeted, "Luigi!".
Dekker's assertions appear to put the recently retired Cancellara in the clear, and show that Hamilton was incorrect in his identification of 'Luigi'. Dekker never raced the Tour of California.
Dekker served a two-year suspension for biological passport violations from 2009, and then was signed to Jonathan Vaughters' Slipstream squad in 2011. His accounts of his time in the peloton have been published in a book called "Thomas Dekker, my fight" by Dutch journalist Thijs Zonneveld.
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