Christian Prudhomme, race director of the Tour de France, was pleased with the news that Ivan Basso will not be racing for Discovery Channel pending the outcome of the newest Operación Puerto-related investigation in Italy. "It is a responsible decision on behalf of Discovery Channel," he told the AP. "Everything we have learned in the past few days goes in the right direction."
Prudhomme said that the key at this point were the blood bags seized in the Spanish investigation, and noted that earlier this month, some of the bags were found to match the DNA sample of the now-retired Jan Ullrich. "Ever since nine bags of blood were identified as belonging to Jan Ullrich, it is possible to know. So, we have to know," Prudhomme said. "I have no doubt that the bags of blood that left Spain for Italy will give an answer. It has gone quickly these last days. Numerous team managers are following the same line as we are."
The news that the Italian CONI was going to re-open investigations against the 2006 Giro d'Italia winner came just days after Prudhomme had launched a strong appeal to the teams, asking them not to enrol riders linked to Operación Puerto in races organised by ASO. On the eve of Flèche Wallonne, the French company held a meeting with the teams present for the race in Belgium, which was also attended by ProTour manager Alain Rumpf.
"We can argue on all issues, but not on this one," Prudhomme told L'Equipe, happy to collaborate with the UCI in the fight against doping. Together with the 19 ProTour teams present (only Unibet.com was missing), it was decided at the meeting to get to the bottom of Operación Puerto. "We managed to all come together on this. Our call was heard. In Compiègne, on the eve of Paris-Roubaix, we only had six teams with us."
Alain Rumpf added that anti-doping measures would be reinforced in the months leading up to Grand Tours, when many illicit practices were supposed to happen. "It's very expensive, but with our new out-of-competition control program, we now have the means to get the riders, wherever they are and whenever it's needed," he added.
Cyclingnews' recent coverage of 'Operación Puerto'
April 2, 2009 - Valverde indignant over possible suspension
April 1, 2009 - Valverde: Italy requests two-year suspension
March 13, 2009 - Le Monde newspaper hit with fine over Puerto allegations
March 2, 2009 - WADA president Fahey asks for Puerto evidence
February 24, 2009 - Spanish federation seeks access to Puerto blood bags
February 20, 2009 - CONI considers Valverde case while UCI awaits verdict
February 19, 2009 - Valverde under criminal investigation
February 11, 2009 - Valverde summonsed for Operación Puerto in Italy
February 8, 2009 - Eight charged in Operación Puerto