This week-end, the members of the International Professional Cycling Teams (IPCT) have decided to possibly exclude Discovery Channel because of its recent signing of Ivan Basso. Under the self-imposed ethical code, the interest group of ProTour teams vowed not to hire any riders implicated in the Operación Puerto affair, and many of Johan Bruyneel's colleagues saw his signing of Basso as a breach of the code even though the Italian pro has been cleared by its national Olympic Committee.
"Sixteen of the seventeen teams have take this stand," said the technical director of T-Mobile, Luuc Eisenga after the meeting in Brussels on Friday. However, the final decision will be voted on January 11, 2007, and IPCT president Patrick Lefévère weighed his words carefully on Sunday.
"It's not come as far as [the exclusion] yet," he told Belgian Sportwereld. "We want to talk, but it takes two to do so." Still, the organisation of mutual economic interests is upset about Bruyneel's attitude change regarding Basso, and fears that the public image of cycling could deteriorate further.
"Johan Bruyneel's inconsistent attitude was too much for some. In Strasbourg, at the Tour start, he was still on the barricades to kick Basso out of the Tour. Now, Basso is at his service," the Quick.Step manager added. His Rabobank counterpart Theo de Rooij commented to Dutch NRC, "Imagine that Basso wins the Tour next year, and is called to witness [at the Spanish court dealing with the affair] one week later. He can't commit perjury and will have to admit that something of him was found in Spain. And then? Cycling already has an enormous image problem. We don't want that kind of risk any more."
Meanwhile, De Rooij admitted that "the ethical charter is based on sand, legally speaking. But it is a mutual agreement in order to put our image problems behind us. Looking back, I still think we made the right decision of taking out the implicated riders from the Tour. But right afterwards, we got the Landis affair of the winner who tested positive. Now, the cycling sport has arrived at a dramatic low."
Rolf Aldag, T-Mobile's new sports director, agreed: "This decision [of excluding Discovery Channel - ed.] is an important step and an important signal of the ProTour Teams to stand together in the fight against doping," he told Cyclingnews on Sunday.