With Ivan Basso looking as though he will walk away from Operation Puerto investigation, Bjarne Riis has modified his tone a bit. Early in the furor over the investigation, Bjarne was quoted as saying:
“I’m fighting to create a clean team, and thus a clean sport – that’s my goal. And if, even if Basso is cleared, there is even the slightest doubt remaining, there will be a cloud over the whole team and over me. That’s not good enough.”
Now, Riis is softening his rhetoric. This morning, he is quoted as saying:
“I still have regular contact with Ivan. He is still part of the team as I have a two-year contract with him. We must wait if he is cleared, but the door is still open.”
Is this cooler heads prevailing? I believe in the early days, Operation Puerto was threatening to consume the whole sport. Everyone was running to save their own hides. In order to save his team, Riis felt he needed to put Ivan Basso out on a limb on his own. This gives insight into Riis’ psyche. Ivan may be like a son, but Riis Cycling is his baby.
Now it seems Operation Puerto was more hype than substance. The Basso connection turned out to be the name of his dog, Birillo, showing up on a file. We also found out that that connection is not as solid as it sounds as Birillo is a popular kids cartoon. Therefore, there are probably a whole lot of Birillos running around Italy.
The media frenzy has done a lot of damage and very little good. It has hurt a lot of innocent people, our image, and sponsors. It also is hurting the anti-doping movement.