Tyler Hamilton and Jörg Jaksche will not race the 2007 Giro d’Italia and have been suspended indefinitely “until the competent authorities … have finally sorted out all the implication of the riders in Operación Puerto,” their Tinkoff Credit Systems team announced on Wednesday.
In a press release, team management said the decision was aimed “at relieving pressure created around the Giro … and on the team itself” after statements made by other squads that decided to deny Giro starts to riders thought to have been implicated in the Spanish blood-doping inquiry.
German sprinter Danilo Hondo has also been suspended as Tinkoff vows to “fully support” the fight against doping pressed by UCI president Pat McQuaid and race organizers.
It was an abrupt turnaround for Tinkoff, which on April 30 denied reports in the Italian press that the team had sidelined Hamilton and Jaksche.
“For me, Tyler and Jörg can start the Giro. Stories that they are suspended are not true,” Tinkoff general manager Omar Piscina told VeloNews. “Tinkoff has a list of 12 riders that can go to the Giro. Tyler is on that list and we expect him to race.”
Indeed, Hamilton told VeloNews at the Tour de Georgia that he hoped for great things from this year’s Giro.
“Everything is for the Giro. I want to be on the podium in Milan,” he said.
Instead, Hamilton, Jaksche and Hondo will join 2006 Giro champion Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi, Costantino Zaballa and Ruben Plaza on the sidelines for this year’s Giro, which begins Saturday.
Zaballa and Plaza, who also have been linked to Fuentes, have been left off Caisse d’Epargne’s team for the Giro.
Hamilton, who was suspended in 2004 for blood doping, has consistently proclaimed his innocence. “I don’t know this guy [Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes]. I’ve never met this guy,” he told VeloNews at Georgia.
As for Basso and Scarponi, they have admitted involvement in the Puerto scandal, but deny actual doping. On Tuesday, Basso said he had admitted to “attempted” doping.
“I did admit having attempted to use doping for the (2006) Tour de France and I am ready to pay the penalty for that,” Basso told a press conference.
“I have never taken banned substances and I have never employed blood doping. All my wins have been achieved in a proper and clean manner and I have every intention of returning to action and continuing with the job I love once I have paid the penalty.”