Lance Armstrong is getting down to business with his Discovery Channel's newest signing, Ivan Basso. The seven-time Tour de France winner ensured that the American team had the signature of the Italian after he ended his contract with Team CSC, and Armstrong is now passing along his knowledge the team's newest member. The 2007 Discovery Channel riders have been in Armstrong's home town of Austin this week for their first 2007 season training camp.
The American has been on most of the team rides and is excited about its potential Tour winner. "I know that he [Basso] wants to win the Tour. I will make available my time and passion," said Armstrong, 35 years-old, in an interview with La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"He is very concentrated in this new challenge; I am not only speaking of the sporting aspects. The personality of Ivan will be able to add a lot to this group. We are all with him."
Ivan Basso, 29 years-old, signed with Discovery Channel team manager sportif Johann Bruyneel last month but he first rose to the attention of the Belgian and Armstrong at the 2002 Tour de France.
"It is not a secret that we have tried over the years to sign him," continued Armstrong. "We have come close [to signing Basso] at least on three or four occasions. To have him in the team has been a dream for a long time; now it is a reality. ... I became aware of him in the 2002 Tour, when he won the white jersey for best young rider. I got to know him better in 2003, at the century edition of the Tour, and the idea to have him [in the team] was already there."
Basso's name is well known but not only for his accomplishments on the bike, like winning the 2006 Giro d'Italia and finishing second in the 2005 Tour. This last summer his name was sullied when he was allegedly linked with Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of the Operación Puerto investigations.
On October 26, International Association of Professional Cycling teams (AIGCP) came to a gentlemen's agreement that they would not sign riders implicated in doping investigations. "Cycling has always been a sport with lots of integral conflicts. Everyone believes they have a reason to talk bad about the others. The truth is that all of the big teams wanted Basso. Ivan was acquitted by CONI [Italian Olympic Committee] and his federation, and for us this was the green light."
The investigation against Basso by his federation [FCI] has been shelved but CONI anti-doping lawyer Franco Cosenza noted that the case could be reopened if more evidence was found to warrant such action, although this has rarely happened in the history of the FCI.
"The case is closed, it is missing the other elements," Armstrong stated to the Italian newspaper. "Basso is clean. There is a telephone call that was linked to him, but nothing concrete. And then he gave his availability to DNA testing. What more can he do?"
Shortly after signing for Discovery Channel Basso said that he would agree to DNA testing if there were future criminal-type investigation, this excluded the current, ongoing Operación Puerto, where DNA sampling could reveal whose blood the Spanish Guardia Civil found.
"The real questions is why was this boy was not allowed to race the  Tour?" Armstrong concluded. He hopes to take Basso on to win the 2007 edition of the Tour de France, giving Discovery Channel and its team manager Bruyneel their eighth victory.
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
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