Operation Basso

The Ivan Basso issue may very turn out to be bigger and messier than Floyd Landis. Floyd is a one-off case. If he wins, then the WADA and the UCI can try to do damage control by pointing at the USADA as a political body that ended up protecting its own. One lost battle in the overall war.

Now, to Ivan. If the UCI and WADA lose this battle, it will be akin to losing the battle of Normandy. The beginning of the end. This one could swing the tide in the Operation Puerto offensive. A quick recap. A pile of evidence was found in Dr Fuentes office including blood, drugs, and detailed notes for a rider ‘Birillo.’ Spanish authorities deduced that this was the codename for Ivan Basso. The name ‘Birillo’ also happened to be the name of Basso’s dog.

I have to tell you I don’t know how popular the name Birillo is among Italian dogs. Our dog is named Buddy which would not be enough to convict me as Buddy is a common name. I do know through some searching that Birillo is a very popular TV cartoon in Italy so there may be some problem here.

Next, Basso’s lawyers stonewalled the DNA testing that would prove once and for all if Ivan was ‘Birillo.’ It seemed that 99.9% was not good enough for Basso’s lawyers to accept the test as definitive. Citing ethics and scruples, the UCI declined using samples of Basso’s blood taken for drug testing purposes as a source of DNA.

So the case, like all cases went to the home country of the athlete. The Italian National Federation did not believe it had enough hard evidence to pursue a case against Basso.

“There is no real proof against Basso. I have seen the dossier that has been sent from Spain, and the only link to Basso is when his name comes up in a telephone conversation,” Silvio Martinello, the technical director for the Italian National Federation said on Sunday.

The next step is the Italian Olympic Committee. The pressure is mounting. Similar to the political pressure for the USADA to move the Floyd Landis case forward, the UCI and WADA are pressuring the Italian Olympic Committee to take action. We will know Friday.

Well, Pat McQuaid is going to the CAS if he loses Friday. By then, that will be an uphill fight. If that goes poorly, a domino of events may take place.

  • The Basso case is dropped
  • Other cases fall off due to lack of hard evidence
  • Riders begin to unite around the unfair treatment of the “trial by media” approach of the WADA and UCI
  • Momentum begins to swing their way as popular riders’ tifosi begin to take up the fight.
  • Operation Puerto becomes an embarrassment of the WADA and UCI. It dies a slow and quiet death.

If this happens, will this be the end of Dick Pound? How about Pat McQuaid. Will drug testing take a step backward? What about “Rider 4142?” Will that case go forward against Tyler Hamilton?

This is a case to watch closely. Ivan Basso’s case may have far reaching ripples through the cycling world. This is how trial by media can backfire.

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As this all plays out, there may still be some skirmishes the UCI and WADA win. For example, I think Jan Ullrich is toast. The overall tide against the current regime may change.

Stay tuned.

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