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Basso quits Discovery Channel team after fresh doping allegations

Basso quits Discovery Channel team after fresh doping allegations

Italian cyclist Ivan Basso quit the Discovery Channel team after authorities reopened an investigation into his role in a Spanish doping scandal.
Less than two weeks before he's due to defend his Giro d'Italia title, Basso asked to be released immediately from his contract.
Basso made the request during a meeting Sunday with Discovery officials, the team said in a statement Monday.
He cited personal reasons related to the reopened investigation by the Italian Olympic Committee, which has called him to a hearing on Wednesday on charges of having used or attempted to use a banned doping substance or method.
"This was a very difficult decision, for me and my family, but I think it is the right thing to do," Basso said in the statement. "It is important that everyone knows this was 100 percent my decision. Nobody asked me to leave."
Basso, who has always denied doping, was suspended by Discovery Channel last week after the summons. He signed a two-year contract in November to ride for the U.S.-based team.
"Ivan's request was unexpected and he was very emotional, but adamant, about his decision to be released," Discovery director Johan Bruyneel said. "We spoke with him at length before granting his request."
The Giro, one of cycling's three premier tours, begins May 12.
The 29-year-old Italian was one of 50 riders implicated in last year's Operation Puerto, which led to his exclusion from the Tour de France. Basso's name turned up on a list of cyclists who allegedly had contact with a Spanish doctor accused of running a blood doping clinic in Madrid.
Basso was cleared of involvement by the Italian Olympic Committee and the Italian cycling federation in October.
Despite the clearance, Basso left his former team CSC by mutual agreement in October.
Italian Olympic Committee doping investigators reportedly have obtained bags suspected to contain Basso's blood from Spain and want to compare them with his DNA.
"When we signed Ivan, all the necessary governing authorities had cleared him," Discovery general manager Bill Stapleton said. "He deserved a team and we had always wanted to sign him. We did our due diligence and we have no regrets."
This month, a DNA sample of 1997 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich was matched to blood bags seized in the scandal. The now-retired German has denied using any banned substances.
Like Ullrich, Basso was one of the few riders able to challenge Lance Armstrong in the mountains during the American's stretch of seven straight Tour de France victories. Basso finished third in the 2004 Tour and was runner-up in 2005.
Basso has not won any races since joining Discovery.
The Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport reported Monday that another 49 cyclists were implicated in new documents stemming from the Spanish investigation.
The Gazzetta also suggested that American rider Tyler Hamilton and Joerg Jaksche would be suspended by their team, Tinkoff. However, Tinkoff team manager Omar Piscina said the report was false.
Hanilton recently completed a two-year ban for doping.
"We have no intention of suspending Hamilton or Jaksche. We haven't received any sort of notice from the authorities and nobody is investigating them as far as we know," Piscina said.
Piscina did say he was aware of the possibility that the Spanish investigation could escalate.
"If RCS (the Giro organizers) tell us that some of our riders can't ride in the Giro, then the team will make a decision," Piscina said. "All of the teams that have riders mentioned are watching with great interest to see what develops."


Updated : 2021-02-25 04:54 GMT+08:00