Italian admits to blood extractions to pursue Tour "dream" in Puerto case
In a video conference from his team Cannondale training base in Tenerife Ivan Basso has admitted he agreed to pay Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes approximately US$94,000 (70,000 euro) in late 2005, in return for a complex doping system ahead of the following year's Tour de France. Basso was the next rider to be called to give evidence in the Operación Puerto trial in which Fuentes, former ONCE and Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz and three others are charged with crimes against public health.
Basso had previously admitted to attempted doping and was handed a two-year suspension in 2007 for his links to the Puerto case - in relation to his three-year stint at Bjarne Riis' CSC squad. Basso is not on trial himself because his actions were not illegal in Spain at the time however, his most recent admission sheds further light on the case that led to the exclusion of some of the sport's biggest names prior to the 2006 Tour de France.
While Basso admitted to having blood removed three times in late 2005 with full intention to use them, he stands firm behind his previous statements that he did not transfuse the blood back into his system. The full fee was never transferred because Basso reportedly did not receive the agreed program - as he was expelled prior to the start of the 2006 Tour. He instead allegedly paid Fuentes $20,000 before authorities stepped in.
"I met Fuentes in 2001-02, during a stay in the Canary Islands for training, but as a patient I contacted the winter of 2005, when I was in the CSC team," said Basso.
"I contacted Dr. Fuentes because his system could give me an advantage in cycling. I acknowledge that on my account it was a weakness, a weakness so as to pursue a dream to win [the Tour].
"Three blood extractions took place in the fall of 2005, but the blood was never re-injected [into] me. My intention was to use the blood for winning the Tour in 2006, but as the network was dismantled in May 2006, it was never done," he said.
Basso did win the 2006 Giro d'Italia prior to his non-start at the Tour and while he expressed remorse for his past during the video conference, he also appeared to suffer from 'memory loss' when questioned about documents that link him, through his code name "Brillo", to the controversial doctor months earlier than originally told.
"I do not remember. It was years ago and my memory is not as good," he said.
Alberto Contador is next to be called as a witness following Jörg Jaksche's damning testimony and Basso's evidence. An extension was granted was granted due to the Spaniard's commitments at the Tour of Oman and he will now appear at the court in Madrid on 22 February. His request to provide evidence as a defense witness for his former team boss Saiz via video conference was denied.
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