By Gregor Brown
"It was only attempted doping," said 29 year-old Ivan Basso to a conference room full of journalists and photographers in Milan's Hotel Michelangelo. The 2006 Giro d'Italia winner called the press conference following his admission of involvement in the Operación Puerto blood doping scandal.
Yesterday, after months of denial, the former Discovery Channel rider admitted that the bags of blood labeled 'Birillo', which were seized in the raid on Fuentes' clinic, belonged to him. After agreeing to cooperate with Italian Olympic Committee's (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors, Basso denied having ever actually used the blood.
"In my career I have never used doping products or resorted to blood transfusions," Basso claimed, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport. Basso, dressed in a light blue dress shirt and jeans, calmly denied using any doping products, although he refused to deny his involvement with Fuentes and the subsequent Operación Puerto.
While admitting that his actions deserved punishment, Basso claimed that all of his victories were achieved without doping, and insisted that he will return to the peloton. "I will serve my suspension and then return to race. I know that returning will make me feel better; I think that the group will accept me," said Basso. "I am fully aware that an attempt at doping is tantamount to doping, but I am asking to be excused for this and that should be enough," he stated.
While Basso's dominant performance in the 2006 Giro d'Italia, where he won by more than nine minutes over José Gutierrez, led third-place finisher Gilberto Simoni to describe him as an 'extra-terrestrial', Basso insisted that he won the race without resorting to using any illegal methods. "All my victories were obtained in an honest manner and nobody can contest what I achieved in the 2006 Giro d'Italia no more than the other results I achieved during my career."
Basso refused to be drawn into listing other names but instead wanted to speak for himself. "I can't vouch for the honour of my colleagues, who wins honestly, like I have always done.
"There is talk about how I am a repenter, or a collaborator. I want to clarify that I was not asked about the other people involved, further, I don't know of riders or other people involved."
He reflected on his decision to involve himself with Fuentes. "It was a weak moment, but I am aware that attempting to dope is the same as doping. I will serve my sentence and return to the work I love."
He finished by commenting on his family. "I will assume my responsibilities, confronting my family, who has stood beside me in my decision."
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