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Wednesday, May 9, 2007 - Page updated at 02:02 AM

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Cycling | Giro champ Basso: "I have admitted attempted doping only"

The Associated Press

MILAN, Italy — A day after admitting involvement in the Spanish doping scandal, Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso said he intended to cheat in "a moment of weakness" but never did, and is ready to accept his punishment.

"I have admitted attempted doping only," the Italian rider said at a news conference Tuesday. "I've never taken any doping substance nor undergone any illegal blood transfusions."

Basso said he made contact with a doctor at the heart of the Spanish investigation, Eufemiano Fuentes, and gave him a blood sample with the intention of doping — but never actually did.

"It was a moment of weakness on my part," Basso said. "I accept responsibility and I am ready to face my punishment."

Basso's name was on a list of riders who allegedly had contact with Fuentes, who is accused of running a blood-doping clinic in Madrid.

Basso quit his Discovery Channel team last week after the Italian Olympic Committee reopened an investigation into his alleged or attempted use of a banned substance or method.

Italian cyclist Michele Scarponi admitted involvement in the scandal Tuesday and offered his "full cooperation" to sports authorities, the Italian committee said. Scarponi, who rides for the Acqua & Sapone team, has denied doping and last week offered to take a DNA test.

Both riders could be banned for up to two years. Basso said he is confident he will not be stripped of his Giro victory. He already has ruled out defending his title in Italy's top cycling event, which begins Saturday.

"I have been one of the most monitored riders over the last three years," he said. "I have passed every test and am considered one of the models in terms of being a rider who respects the rules," Basso said. "I have never been found guilty of actual doping and everything I have achieved in my career, I have done honestly. For this reason, I am not afraid."

Basso, 29, said the decision to acknowledge involvement was not made under pressure.

"I wasn't brought to my knees with my back against the wall," he said. "I admitted of my own volition."

Spain sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky called Basso's admission "an example of bravery."

"I think Basso has shown that he's not only a great cycling champion, but also a person who knows how to face responsibility," Lissavetzky added. "I congratulate him."

Italian committee president Gianni Petrucci said the disclosure sent a clear message.

"This is the first time a top cyclist has decided to cooperate," Petrucci said. "It is an important signal. It means that the world of cycling is beginning to understand that it is useless to shirk one's responsibilities and that it doesn't pay to play the victim."

Basso said he would not implicate others.

"I can only speak about my own position," he said.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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