Dane hints he may speak in a Truth and Reconciliation proces
Bjarne Riis arrived at the Tour of Oman on Tuesday to follow the Team Saxo-Tinkoff squad and team leader Alberto Contador as they go for overall victory in the six-day stage race.
Riis' history as a rider and then as a team manager are tightly intertwined with the last twenty years of professional cycling and also with what is happening at the Operacion Puerto trial and any possible Truth and Reconciliation Process managed by the UCI.
He won the 1996 Tour de France but then surrendered his victory after confessing to doping. His teams have been some of the most successfully and carefully managed set-ups in the history of the sport and he is again back in tandem with Contador and ready to target another Tour de France.
Yet an ever-growing number of Riis' high-profile riders have become caught up in doping scandals in recent years and many were or may have been client of Dr. Fuentes.
Tyler Hamilton has claimed that Riis underwent a blood transfusion during the 1996 Tour de France. He and Ivan Basso were especially close between 2004 and 2006, when the Italian rode for CSC. The latest evidence to emerge from Operacion Puerto and published by Gazzetta dello Sport suggests that Basso underwent blood transfusions and used other banned substances thanks to Fuentes, while working with Riis. Hamilton, Contador, Fränk Schleck, Jörg Jaksche, Michele Bartoli, Dave Zabriskie, and Christian Vande Velde have all either faced doping suspensions or admitted to doping while riding under Riis’s care.
Riis has claimed that he does not know Fuentes and has never met him. Yet the links between cycling's most diabolic doctor and the stone-faced Dane are becoming more and more apparent. Many feel his position in the sport is virtually untenable.
He rarely speaks to the media these days but hinted to Cyclingnews that he does have regrets about his past. However, at least for now, he is still unwilling to be part of any active solution to cycling's problems.
"I think we all have regrets…" he told Cyclingnews before the start of stage two of the Tour of Oman, combining a few words with long silences.
"I don’t want to say anything about Basso or anything else. I haven’t seen Gazzetta dello Sport. It's not the moment for me to talk about all that because there's a process going on. So I don't feel or need to comment on it."
Riis did not rule out benefiting from the expected Truth and Reconciliation process but he wants to know the conditions of the process, no doubt fearing for his future in the sport and perhaps that of his team.
"I think everybody has an interest to be part of the solution if it’s a fair and healthy solution. Everybody has an interest in the right solution," he said.
"First we need to understand what it (a truth and reconciliation process) really is, what it means. That's important, before taking any decisions."
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