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Basso: "I'm no fugitive"

The should-have-been star of the 2006 Tour, after being linked to the doping network around incriminated haematologist Dr Fuentes, has left France and returned to his home in Italy on Friday afternoon. Ivan Basso has been suspended by his team director Bjarne Riis, for the good of his team and to give the Giro d'Italia winner time to prove his innocence.

Contacted by the Gazzetta dello Sport, the former leader of Team CSC was feeling angry, but composed. Asked if he was aware of the fact that his departure from the team hotel through the back door looked like he was fleeing, Basso denied. "I didn't run away, I'm no fugitive," he said. "I was suspended by my team and I did what I had to do. Besides, there is nothing official yet. No judicial institution has informed me of anything. Neither has the UCI or the Guardia Civil. It's an abnormal situation - I found myself in the centre of attention for something I have nothing to do with. To me it's embarrassing to face the television cameras."

Basso will now confer with his lawyer Massimo Martinelli. "I'm sure I'll get out of this as I'm innocent," he added. "[Bjarne Riis] has complete faith in me and waits for me with open arms.

"I've lived through worst times in my life. Two years ago I was at the Tour knowing that my mother was dying of cancer - this is nothing compared to that. I'm sure that I will get out of this with my head held high. I'll soon come back to race and to win," he concluded calmly.

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