Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport has reported in its Friday edition that retired Classics specialist Michele Bartoli was linked with Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
The Spanish doctor at the centre of the Operación Puerto affair gave many of his clients pseudonyms based on their dogs' names. CONI's anti-doping prosecutors confirmed 'Birillo' was the name of Ivan Basso's dog and it is now speculated that 'Sansone', the third name listed on the Guardia Civil-issued dossier of 38 pages (June 27, 2006), is alleged to be Michele Bartoli. (Read EPO blood bags attributed to code names.)
The paper reports that Bartoli, who won the 1996 Ronde van Vlaanderen, 1997 and 1998 Liège-Bastogne-Liège, and 2002 and 2003 Giro di Lombardia, had a dog with the name 'Sansone'. The rider, known by Italian fans as Il Gatto ('the cat'), is a friend of Basso and the two were teammates in Fassa Bortolo (2002 and 2003) and in Bjarne Riis' CSC (2004, Bartoli's final year).
In the investigators' documents, released by Spanish paper El País, there is evidence of an alleged doping program during 2002 and 2003. According to the Italian paper, there were references to Bartoli travelling to Spain to meet Fuentes, and his assistant José Merino Batres travelling to Italy.
In the first instance, Bartoli travelled to the Canary Islands to allegedly be prescribed Aranesp (a form of EPO) by Fuentes. In 2003 there were two reported trips to Italy: Fuentes was visited before the Milano-Sanremo and then Batres before the Ronde van Vlaanderen, where they were to make "two blood extractions and two transfusions". According to the documents, Fuentes noted, "The return flight was cancelled, and another one was bought for 600 euro. He [Bartoli] said to me that he would pay for it."
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