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Ivan Basso (Cannondale).
Italian talks about his life after Operacion Puerto
Ivan Basso is scheduled to testify via video at the Operacion Puerto trial on February 11 but the Italian would prefer to put his involvement in the Spanish blood doping ring behind him and focus on his racing.
"I've been called to testify, but for me it's a formality because it was part of my life six or seven years ago," Basso told Cyclingnews in an exclusive interview in Tuscany as he trains for the 2013 season.
"I was banned by the Italian Olympic Committee and was found guilty in an Italian court, so it only brings back bad memories for me."
The Team Cannondale captain initially denied his links to Dr. Fuentes when Operacion Puerto exploded during the final days of his dominant victory at the 2006 Giro d'Italia. Yet he was forced to flee the start of the 2006 Tour de France in Strasbourg by a backdoor when the allegations of blood doping became much stronger.
While still in denial, Basso quit CSC and joined the Discovery Channel team during the winter of 2006. He rode several races but was then formally placed under investigation by the Italian Olympic Committee in April and was given a two-year ban.
Basso made a comeback with the Liquigas team in 2009 and went on to finish fourth in the Vuelta and then won the 2010 Giro d'Italia.
Now 35, Basso is no longer the rider he was while working with Bjarne Riis at his peak. He finished fifth in the 2012 Giro d'Italia and 25th at the Tour de France.
He has published some of his blood data and power metre profiles online, but has always refused to speak in detail about his past as a doper or speak to help make cycling cleaner for the future. True to his hard working and reserved nature, Basso prefers to let his racing do the talking.
"When you've lied so much, people don’t want just words. The wind blows words away, as we say in Italian. People want facts. I've got to produce facts, as I did in 2009 and 2010," Basso told Cyclingnews.
"I won the 2010 Giro d'Italia, finished on the podium in another Giro and was on the podium at the Vuelta. People want facts: my results are my facts, as is the possibility to look at the details: your values, what the anti-doping associations says about you, your biological passport.
"There's no point in me telling fairy tales. People have eyes, heart and a mind to evaluate what they're see."
"I know people were very disappointed with me but then I came back and won the Giro d'Italia again and a few weeks later a magazine published info on my biological passport and said 'This race was won by a clean rider'. I think that's important. I didn’t only say I'd done all the controls, the people were able to see it."
Can people now trust Ivan Basso?
"Yes. 100 per cent," he replied. "I know I can't be considered a saint. That'd be wrong. But I think I've regained my dignity.
"When I came back in 2008, I made some promises and I've kept them. I was also lucky to consolidate them with some important victories and just by being transparent."
Basso claims he has not followed the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong or the Texan's partial confession. He has little to say on the expected Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
"It's nothing to do with me. I've served my two-year ban. I'm focused on doing a great 2013 and 2014 and maybe even later," he said.
"It's not up to me to take the moral high ground and judge other people. A true leader is followed in silence. It's about 'leading by example', that's my mission now. It's about having the respect of my teammates. I don’t want to think about the past. I want to think about the present and about the future."