By Andrew Hood
Team CSC and Italian star Ivan Basso cut ties in a mutual agreement Wednesday that releases the 2006 Giro d’Italia champion from the remaining two years of his contract with the Danish team. Basso was forced out of the Tour de France this summer after he was linked to an alleged blood doping ring in Spain. Despite the fact that Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) officials subsequently recommended that he be cleared, the relationship between Basso and Team CSC boss Bjarne Riis appear to have been irreparably soured. “After all that has happened, especially this summer, Team CSC and Ivan Basso have agreed to part ways,” Riis said in a statement released by the team Wednesday. “It has been a very difficult decision, but both parties agree it is time to move on.” The somewhat surprising decision will fuel speculation where Basso will land for the 2007 season. In an interview with L’Equipe this week, Basso said he’s already received offers from such teams as Discovery Channel and has drawn interest from other squads, including Milram.
“I am not lacking offers, so I will go into the winter serene,” Basso told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “I will start working for next season. The details haven’t been worked out, but the Giro and the Tour remain the top goals.” Basso was the leading favorite to win the 2006 Tour when he was among nine riders from four teams who were not allowed to race the 2006 Tour after their names appeared in documents from the ongoing Operación Puerto investigation allegedly linking them to controversial Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. Basso, 29, vehemently denied working with Fuentes, but Riis was forced to sideline his star pupil after his name was linked to the alleged blood doping ring Spanish authorities say they uncovered last May. Basso was facing a possible two-year racing ban, but a Spanish court ruled last month that evidence collected could not be used to sanction riders while the investigation is still open. Last week, officials from CONI’s anti-doping panel recommended there wasn’t enough evidence to warrant opening a disciplinary hearing against Basso, thus giving him the green light to return to competition. Officials warned, however, that the case could be re-opened if new evidence is released in Spain. The decision comes after weeks of speculation on whether Basso and Riis would be able to work together following the controversial decision to force Basso out of the Tour. Riis helped develop Basso into a grand tour contender and worked closely with him since the former Fassa Bortolo rider joined Team CSC in the 2004 season.