Sat, Oct 14, 2006 - Page 19 News List

Basso hopes to race in Sunday's Tour of Lombardy

'REAL JUSTICE'? Italy's cycling federation has given the suspended racer the OK to race, but the UCI may seek a court hearing for a sanction


Italian cyclist Ivan Basso is hoping to race this weekend despite not turning a pedal in anger since being suspended by his team a day before the Tour de France because of doping suspicions.

Basso, 28, was one of a number of riders suspected of being involved in a doping ring that Spanish police uncovered at the end of May, only days before Basso's Tour of Italy triumph.

Last week, however, a Spanish judge overseeing the investigation said the evidence from the investigation, dubbed "Operation Puerto," could not be legally used to seek sanctions against the riders who are implicated.

On Thursday, Basso took another step towards competing again with his CSC team when the Italian olympic committee (CONI) said he had no case to answer.

green light

The committee has reserved the right to re-open the case if fresh evidence comes to light, but it appears the Italian Cycling Federation is all set to give Basso the green light.

Federation president Renato Di Rocco said that the olympic committee's decision had been "meticulous and taken in total independence."

"The individual concerned has been treated with respect and the rules have been followed to the letter -- without which no real justice would be done," Di Rocco said.

Basso hopes that his team boss, former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, will give him the nod and end his suspension so he can ride in the Tour of Lombardy this weekend.

"It's good news but I still don't know if I'll be able to race the Tour of Lombardy on Sunday," Basso said to reporters.

"I'll speak about that now with [CSC team manager] Bjarne [Riis] and we'll decide."

It remains to be seen, however, how the cycling's world governing authority reacts.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said two weeks ago that if Basso was cleared, it would then study the possibility of taking him to the Court of Arbitration for Sport to seek a sanction.

On Thursday, the UCI said that it had yet to be officially informed of CONI's decision.

"The UCI recognizes through press reports the decision apparently taken by CONI concerning Ivan Basso," a spokesman said. "Above all, the UCI underlines that at this moment we have not been informed officially of this decision."

doping network

Basso is one of 58 riders and 200 athletes in total alleged to have used a doping network run by sports doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.

Bags of blood and doping products were found by police in raids on his Madrid laboratory following phone taps by the Spanish authorities.

Basso was implicated because his name was mentioned in a taped telephone conversation. The name `Birillo' -- which has been reported as the name of Basso's dog -- was reportedly also found on a bag of blood.

Former German Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich was also implicated and -- like Basso -- was refused permission to ride in the Tour de France.

Ullrich was first suspended and then sacked by his T-Mobile team, although this week reports said he has been talking to teams keen having him ride for them.

Both riders were among the favorites for the Tour de France's yellow jersey, which was won by American Floyd Landis.

After the race, Landis tested positive for testosterone. Ahead of expected sanctions, the former Phonak rider is fighting to clear his name.

Basso and Ullrich claim they are innocent, but both have also refused to submit DNA samples that could prove their innocence in a comparative test with the blood found in Fuentes' lab.

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