Cycling champion denies doping
MILAN, Italy Giro dItalia champion Ivan Basso denied doping but said Tuesday he attempted to do so, an admission that comes one day after he acknowledged his involvement in the Spanish drug scandal.Basso said he made contact with a doctor at the center of the case, Eufemiano Fuentes, and gave him a blood sample with the intention of doping but never actually did.I have admitted attempted doping only, Basso said at a news conference. Ive never taken any doping substance nor undergone any illegal blood transfusions.Bassos name turned up on a list of cyclists who allegedly had contact with Fuentes, who is accused of running a blood-doping clinic in Madrid.It was a moment of weakness on my part, Basso said. I accept responsibility and I am ready to face my punishment.The 29-year-old Basso quit his Discovery Channel team last week after the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI), reopened an investigation into his alleged use or attempted use of a banned substance or method.Another cyclist under investigation, Michele Scarponi, also admitted involvement in the scandal Tuesday and offered his full cooperation to sports authorities, CONI said.Scarponi, who rides for the Acqua & Sapone team, has always denied doping and last week offered to submit to a DNA test.CONI has yet to issue sanctions, but both Italian riders could be banned from racing for up to two years.However, Basso was confident that he would not be stripped of his Giro title. He has already ruled out defending Italys top cycling event, which begins on Saturday.I have been one of the most monitored riders over the last three years. I have passed every test and am considered one of the models in terms of being a rider who respects the rules, Basso said. I have never been found guilty of actual doping and everything I have achieved in my career I have done honestly. For this reason, I am not afraid.Basso said the decision to acknowledge involvement was spontaneous.I wasnt brought to my knees with my back against the wall, he said. I admitted of my own volition.Basso, who admitted involvement to CONIs anti-doping prosecutor on Monday, said he would not implicate other riders.I can only speak about my own position, he said.The Spanish probe started last May when Fuentes, coach Manolo Saiz and six other people were arrested in Madrid on suspicion of providing doping services to cyclists.The investigation implicated more than 50 cyclists and led to Basso, 1997 champion Jan Ullrich and seven other riders being excluded from last years Tour de France.Basso was initially cleared of involvement in October, but CONI reopened the case last month after reportedly obtaining bags suspected to contain his blood.Gazzetta dello Sport reported Tuesday that those bags were labeled Birillo, the name of Bassos dog.Asked why he had not confessed earlier, Basso responded: Better late than never.Basso said he had received support from other riders throughout a very difficult year.He said his involvement in the scandal had damaged his credibility but he was looking forward to opening a second phase of his cycling career.It will remain a weakness for the rest of my life but I will return a more serene rider, Basso said. I have the intention of returning to the job that I love, riding bikes, after having served my ban.