By Susan Westemeyer
Ivan Basso "is a pawn in a bigger game. It is a major mistake, to focus all the negative attention on the riders," according to Italian anti-doping expert Alessandro Donati.
"You fall in the trap that the international sports system has set for years," he continued in a no-holds barred Interview in WELT magazine. "This system is set up so that so few people as possible are caught, and when someone is caught, then it is the athletes, but never trainers, sports doctors or those in charge of the system. It is a perfidious strategy, in which the media and governments are accomplices. They have helped to form a new generation in the sports system, which is dishonest and corrupt."
Donati criticized the Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) decision last fall to shelve the Basso investigation. "This superficial decision was made much too quickly. But it didn't surprise me, since it goes along with every else CONI has ever done. The Italian Olympic Committee has a strategy of minimizing and avoiding.
"The dynamics of the recent weeks are a change from the usual tactics. I see that at least as positive. But together with Basso's interrogation, it now appears in a more doubtful light. Especially when the CONI attorneys called his statement a major step in informing on the scene, a self-serving, over-hasty step on its part, because he actually only provided minimal cooperation.
"Basso's cooperation is so far disappointing and unbelievable. CONI's earlier actions now seem like a sham."
He doesn't see much good in Basso's future. "The various public investigations in Italy, like in Rome and Bergamo, will force Basso and his entourage to bring some truths to light. I will say in advance that Basso, like other sport stars -- think of Jan Ullrich and Marco Pantani -- will be on their own.
"Basso faces the risk of standing alone in the spotlight, while the leading figures who have corrupted this sport, will remain in the shadows. It is totally unbelievable to me that the national and international federations allegedly knew nothing of a network like Fuentes had, that was based on an enormous international network. If this network was so well known to the riders and managers, then how could it be unknown to the UCI functionaries?"
He called for further work on doping tests, noting that "there is in fact a disparity in the development of tests for doping methods. The medical commission of the IOC [International Olympic Committee] is at a disadvantage to the introduction of new doping methods." He said, "The most important examples are EPO and HGH [growth hormones]. EPO appeared at the end of the 1980s -- and what did the IOC commission do? They asked Professor Francesco Conconi to investigate it!
"There are only two possible ways to interpret that action: either the IOC was totally incapable of a critical analysis of the situation -- or the IOC was already too deeply involved in the doping system."
Donati, former head of research and development for CONI, said that he is unable to see the Giro d'Italia as a sports event. "With the background of all my experience, I can't do that any more. I see the Giro d'Italia only with professional interest, because events like this are soiled by doping."