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Basso receives maximum suspension

By Gregor Brown

Ivan Basso has been given a suspension of 24 months by the Italian cycling federation (FCI) disciplinary commission for his involvement with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, and will be able to resume racing October 24, 2008. The 29 year-old Italian cyclist confessed on May 7 that he had extracted the blood that was found in bags labelled 'Birillo' in Madrid, after increasing pressure from Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutor Ettore Torri and mounting evidence against him.

"Basso has to take responsibility for the violation of WADA's anti-doping code 2.2 [use or attempted use of prohibited methods]," said the president of the FCI Disciplinary Commission, Vincenzo Ioffredi, to La Gazzetta dello Sport. "We did not take into account his collaboration because there was no help substantial made."

The disciplinary commission subtracted 236 days for the sum of the days Basso has already spent under suspension.

Basso joined Team CSC for the 2004 season, and in its colours he achieved second in the 2005 Tour de France and won the 2006 Giro d'Italia, but the two parties parted ways after Basso was linked to Operación Puerto prior to the 2006 Tour. He joined Discovery Channel in November but, after participating in such races as the Tour of California and Tirreno-Adriatico, he was forced to quit just prior to admitting his involvement with Fuentes. His last race was the Castilla y Leon, March 30.

"Since I confessed my errors I have started to feel better with myself and towards my family. It is true that I deceived for one year because I was afraid of being uncovered, but it is human to make mistakes," said Basso after leaving the meeting, which started at 12:30. The cyclist, represented by lawyer Massimo Martelli, was heard by the FCI Disciplinary Commission, presided by Vincenzo Ioffredi.

"Now I will pay the consequences of my errors, but I want to underline that I have said all that I know, and for an athlete at my level that is not easy. I have lost everything - the races, the contracts - but it is justified because I misled and now I will accept the penalty for my errors." By the end of his suspension, Basso will have missed two editions of the Giro (2007 and 2008) and three of the Tour de France (2006, 2007 and 2008).

Last night, the UCI had sent a letter to the FCI President Renato Di Rocco to state is insistence on a full sentence. "There are not the elements to give Basso a reduction," it stated. It continued, according to AGR, that it is not possible "to reduce the sanction of two years" based upon "article 233 RAD, which obliges a suspension of two years." The letter went to state that if a discount was given by the FCI then the UCI would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

"There needs to be a reduction for Basso's collaboration," argued Martelli earlier Friday afternoon. "Ivan has furnished the prosecutor with new information that permitted him to open up other investigations." He officially asked for a seven month and 24 day reduction, taking into account the days spent after leaving CSC (June 29 to December 31) and Discovery (April 24 to May 14), plus the ones imposed by the FCI (May 15 to Friday, June 15).

Torri, who was present during the hearing, did not agree that Basso helped as much as he could have. "He could have done more," said CONI's prosecutor.

"I accept this decision and I think only of training and staying well," Basso concluded on hearing the sentence.

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