By Hedwig Kröner in Varese, Italy
Inevitably, Bjarne Riis' team's press conference also addressed the subject of Fränk Schleck's alleged 2006 payment to Eufemiano Fuentes' Swiss bank account, revealed by a German newspaper on Friday. Riis commented that Schleck had told him he had "a clear conscience. Fränk said he never doped or used any doping substances or methods. He said he has not compromised the team's or the UCI's code of ethics. He asked us to give him the opportunity to explain himself in front of the Luxembourg anti-doping commission, and we will allow him to do so. After that, he will explain himself to us."
Riis also used the opportunity to try and clear his own name in the light of the allegations of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, according to which Schleck was seen at the apartment of the Operación Puerto doctor in the company of Riis in 2006.
"I can guarantee to a 100 percent that you will never find my name in any of the Puerto documents. I have never had anything to do with that case or with that Spanish doctor. I can guarantee you that," he said.
Still, journalists insisted on the affair, asking if Schleck had denied that he made that payment of approximately 7,000 euros to the bank account. Proof of the transaction is reportedly available to a Luxembourg prosecutor's office. "We did not ask him that question exactly," Riis said. "We haven't had the time yet. Once again, we granted him his wish to explain himself before the anti-doping commission first."
There are thus no consequences for the Saxo Bank rider at the moment. Asked if the team would use the possibility of suspending Schleck, Riis responded, "We will act depending on how this case unfolds. We need clear facts before we can make any decisions." No date was yet announced, though, as to the hearing of Schleck in front of his country's anti-doping commission.
The new sponsor, as well as Saxo Bank, supported Riis' stance. "We will follow the team's rules and decisions with regard to anti-doping," said Kim Fournais, founder and CEO of Saxo Bank. "Unless there is a coordinated effort in the team to cheat - which would be a different story. But there is always the possibility of one or two riders making mistakes. And in that case, we trust Bjarne Riis knows what to do."