One day after announcing the signing of Ivan Basso, the Liquigas team has withdrawn its membership from the International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) – the teams' organisation headed by Cofidis team manager Eric Boyer. In a statement released Friday morning, Liquigas said it believes the AIGCP "doesn't represent all the sporting groups anymore and the programme we agreed doesn't satisfy the current needs."
The signing of Basso, currently serving a two-year suspension for his involvement in the Operación Puerto doping network, means that Liquigas is in direct contravention of the ProTour Code of Ethics, which states that a ProTour team must not sign a rider for four years after any suspension was issued. The AIGCP has previously stated that any team not respecting the Code of Ethics will be excluded from the group.
Discovery Channel found itself in a similar situation in June last year, when it withdrew from the AIGCP over disagreements regarding the group's lack of unity and future objectives. However, membership of the AIGCP is not compulsory for any team competing in ProTour races or the Grand Tours.
Other ProTour teams will likely be watching the Basso situation with interest, as the Italian's signing may well set a precedent for teams to contract riders returning from doping suspensions.