Ivan Basso of Discovery Channel Pro Cycling and Jan Ullrich, formerly of T-Mobile and rumored to be in discussions with the European continental pro cycling team Acqua & Sapone, may be forced to prove their innocence if they wish to race again.
Today, cyclingnews.com reported that Tour de France Director Christian Prudhomme may not allow riders implicated in Operacion Puerto to race in this year's Grande Boucle. And the organizers for the Tour of Germany have said that there will be no television coverage if Puerto riders (you know who you are) take part in the race. Of course, without television coverage and the attendant sponsorship dollars, there will be no Tour of Germany.
So, what are riders like Basso and Ullrich to do? In the case of Ullrich, he has little choice. Velonews reported over the weekend that German prosecutors will be comparing DNA samples (presumably extracted) from Ullrich against the DNA in bags of blood in the possession of Spanish authorities obtained from Eufemiano Fuentes, the Spanish doping doctor at the center of the Operacion Puerto affair. Assuming that the bags of blood are unsullied, there may be a silver lining in this otherwise endless scandal: Ullrich will be found innocent or guilty based upon the analysis. "If the blood don't fit, you can't convict."
Basso may also be in a similar predicament. On Friday, cyclingnews.com reported that the organisation of the International Professional Cycling Teams (ICPT) has offered to provide the blood of riders implicated in the Puerto affair to officials for analysis. Simultaneously, the IPCT which had previously excluded Discovery from their ranks because of Discovery's signing of Basso allowed Discovery back into their exclusive club. Since Basso agreed at the time of his signing with Discovery to undergo DNA tests if required by cycling authorities, the clear implication is that Basso will be providing his blood for analysis as well. Again, the good news here is that implicated riders will be indicted or cleared based upon the results of this analysis.
As much as I loathe the 'guilty until proven innocent' mantra of European professional cycling, DNA tests will clearly set the record straight. With the new cycling year dawning, it would be great to get this mess behind us so fans like us can focus on riders and races instead of this ongoing Puerto nonsense.