Five points in the Basso-Fuentes link

The withdrawal of Ivan Basso from the Tour de France on the eve of the race was one of several...

The withdrawal of Ivan Basso from the Tour de France on the eve of the race was one of several shocks resulting from the Operacion Puerto affair. As Basso was named in the investigation, under ProTour rules he had to pull out of the Tour. Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla, Francisco Mancebo, and the whole Astana-Würth team (even though all weren't named) couldn't start the Tour for similar reasons.

Since the operation hit the public eye on May 23, Basso and his Team CSC mentor Bjarne Riis have always denied that they were involved in the investigation. However, a 38-page summary of the full 500-page Operacion Puerto dossier provided enough circumstantial evidence to link the CSC captain to the affair. Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport published the information concerning Basso, which focused on tapped conversations between Dr Eufemiano Fuentes, and the former director of Comunidad Valenciana, Ignacio Labarta.

In a phone conversation on May 14, at 21:46, the two discuss the Giro stage to Maielletta, won by Basso. Fuentes allegedly said in a 'wink wink' tone, "A stranger won, Basso, Ivan Basso." Labarta responded, "A certain Ivan Basso."

After that stage, Basso and José Enrique Gutierrez Cataluna (a Dr Fuentes client) were lying first and second on the general classification. Labarta: "Well done boy, first and second with a certain Basso and a certain Guti." Fuentes: "Good heavens." Labarta: "Hey...first and second."

On the previous day (May 13), Labarta called Fuentes at 20:02 and spoke about the great performance of the "Buffalo" - Gutierrez' oft-used nickname - who finished fourth in stage 7 on that day. A surprised Fuentes said, "Buffalo?", to which Labarta responded in the affirmative, also listing the stage placings behind Rik Verbrugghe: "Savoldelli [2nd - ed.], yes, and behind at 16 seconds, Birillo arrived with Simoni, at 20 seconds Zapatero [who was identified as Scarponi], at 24 seconds, Uno [La Gazzetta claimed it was Unai Osa, but he finished at 34 seconds - ed]. All very well. I want to say that all those who you are looking after, or who you are interested in, are in the race and also doing well."

In addition to Basso and Simoni, only Rebellin and Gonchar finished at 16 seconds on the seventh stage. Both those riders, as well as Simoni and Savoldelli, have been excluded from having any connection with Dr Fuentes. But "Birillo" happens to be the name of Basso's dog. In Fuentes' code key, it is associated with number 2. The 226 bags of blood and plasma that were seized from Dr Fuentes' apartments in Madrid are encoded with similar numbers and nicknames, and presumably a DNA test could verify whether the blood contained in a "number 2" bag is the same as Ivan Basso's.

The fourth link is a document with Dr Fuentes' company letterhead on it that features a list of "contributors and participants in the festival taking place in the month of May." Basso, Marcos Serrano, Michele Scarponi, José Enrique Gutierrez and Jan Ullrich are all on the list. The Civil Guard has interpreted the 'festival' as being the Giro d'Italia, since all those riders took part in it.

The final link is contained in details of payments for products and services. There is no direct naming of Basso, but a handwritten note by Fuentes appeared to give 'Birillo' instructions to take certain products. "Birillo: take 2 x plasma; 3 x HM (gonadotropin); 10 patches (testosterone); code Swiss account."

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