Basso gets maximum suspension
ROME – A year of secrets and lies caught up with Ivan Basso on Friday.The 2006 Giro d’Italia champion, who also finished on the Tour de France podium twice, received a maximum two-year doping penalty from the Italian cycling federation.With that, he became the first high-profile rider suspended for the recent scandals rocking cycling.”I know I made mistakes and I deserve to be punished,” Basso said. “Since I admitted my mistakes I’ve started feeling better with myself and my family. I kept it all secret for a year, even from my family. I was afraid of getting caught.”Last month, Basso acknowledged involvement in the Spanish blood-doping probe, known as Operation Puerto.”I want to stress that I told them everything I know, and that’s not easy for an athlete of my level,” Basso said. “I lost everything – races, contracts. Now it’s only fair that I accept the penalty.”Basso confessed to “attempted doping,” saying he never actually went through with it.”I accept the sentence. I knew the situation wasn’t an easy one,” Basso said. “I’m going to continue to train and plan to return in 2009. I’ve got to look to the future.”The 29-year-old rider was accused of using or attempting to use a banned substance or method, and “possession of banned substances and methods.”Basso was already suspended for nearly eight months by the CSC team last year and Discovery Channel this season, so the latest penalty will expire on Oct. 24, 2008.Basso was also already banned from last year’s Tour de France. He will now miss two more Tours and next year’s Giro d’Italia. He said he would leave it up to his lawyer to decide on a possible appeal.”Right now I’m looking to the future,” he said. “I can’t do anything else.”Operation Puerto was blown open in May 2006 when Spanish authorities sequestered about a hundred sacks of frozen blood in the offices of the Spanish doctor at the center of the probe, Eufemiano Fuentes.Basso was listed as “Birillo” – his dog’s name – in Fuentes’ books. He was among 50 riders implicated for contact with Fuentes.”I have the impression that every now and then we lose sight of the issue at hand,” said the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) antidoping prosecutor Ettore Torri. “We don’t have a problem with the cyclists, the problem is with the people that induce them to make use of doping products and tell them where to find them.”The two-year ban satisfies the request of the International Cycling Union, or UCI, and exceeds the 21-month suspension that CONI recommended last month.
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