Basso could be cleared on Friday

By Gregor Brown

Ivan Basso could be cleared this coming Friday. Franco Cosenza, anti-doping lawyer of Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), does not seem to have the concrete evidence needed to defer Basso to the disciplinary commission of the Italian federation (FCI)) and it is likely the case against the 2006 Giro d'Italia winner will be filed. The two will meet this Friday, 29 September, in Rome, where Basso has been summonsed to appear for the second time in front of the CONI lawyer.

The 28 year-old Italian has been linked to the Spanish investigation Operación Puerto last May, when Guardia Civil officers found bags of blood with the name "Birillo" on them. According to the Spanish investigators, this was Basso's code name used by Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, as "Birillo" was allegedly the name of Basso's dog. Then, there were two telephone calls: One on May 14, at 21.46, an intercepted conversation between Ignacio Labarta, former directeur sportif of the Comunidad Valenciana team, and Fuentes, where Labarta refers to Basso and José Enrique Gutierrez (Phonak) as clients of Fuentes. Finally, there is a fax, hand written by Fuentes, explicitly using the name "Ivan Basso", and sent to Labarta prior to the start of the Giro.

But the evidence against Basso is said to be circumstantial in the legal sense, and not enough for Cosenza to defer Basso to the FCI disciplinary commission. The news has angered Pat McQuaid, president of the International Cycling Union (UCI). While in Salzburg for the World Championships, the Irishman made it known that he wished CONI would not rush to a decision, and wait for further evidence out of Spain.

If the case of Basso is archived by CONI, then the UCI can appeal the decision to Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), which the Cycling Union has already announced they will do so.

Basso, if freed, could be on the search for a team. His current squad CSC has been waiting until a final decision is made by the sporting authorities. However, team manager Bjarne Riis, who was also in Salzburg for the World's, made his thoughts known on DNA testing. "I would prefer that Basso makes a DNA test," Riis told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "The decision is his and I can't force it but it is something I would like to see."

The DNA testing, which Basso has rejected, would clarify if the blood found last May in Spain is from the Italian. DNA testing is not currently required but the UCI is examining wether or not these blood samples should be collected in the future.

The final decision regarding Basso's ability to return to racing could come from the ProTour teams. CSC, or another possible team, will have to decide wether or not a rider who has been linked to the Operación Puerto investigation would represent their sponsors' interests.

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