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Ivan Basso Suspended For Doping

ROME (AP) _ Former Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso received a maximum two-year doping penalty Friday from the Italian cycling federation.

Basso acknowledged involvement last month in the Spanish blood-doping probe, known as Operation Puerto. He confessed to ``attempted doping,'' but said he never actually went through with it.

``I accept the sentence. I knew the situation wasn't an easy one,'' Basso said. ``I'm going to continue to train and plan to return in 2009. I've got to look to the future.''

The 29-year-old rider was accused of using or attempting to use a banned substance or method, and ``possession of banned substances and methods.''

Basso was already suspended for nearly eight months by his teams this year and last, so Friday's penalty will expire Oct. 24, 2008.

Basso said he would leave it up to his lawyer to decide on a possible appeal.

``Right now I'm looking to the future,'' he said. ``I can't do anything else.''

The two-year ban satisfies the request of the International Cycling Union, or UCI, and exceeds the 21-month suspension that Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) doping prosecutors recommended last month for the 2006 Giro winner.

CONI recommended 21 months because Basso cooperated with authorities and it was his first offense. But the Italian cycling federation said his collaboration was not extensive enough to merit a reduced penalty.

``Collaboration was not taken into account because it was not factual and substantial help,'' disciplinary committee president Vincenzo Ioffredi said.

The UCI had said it would appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if Basso wasn't banned for two years.

Before the sentence was issued, Basso appeared before the federation's disciplinary panel and said he deserved to be sanctioned for doping ``mistakes'' but pleaded for a lenient penalty that would allow him to return to racing as soon a possible.

``I know I made mistakes and I deserve to be punished,'' Basso told the panel.

But, he added, ``Judge me according to the rules. Don't judge me because of my name and the things that have been said and written about me. Because of this I missed races and lost contracts. I hope the punishment is fair and I can return as soon as possible.''

During the hearing, Basso's lawyer, Massimo Martelli, said his client was ``the first world-class cyclist in history to make this sort of admission.'' He noted that Basso has never tested positive in his career and that he has already been suspended for nearly eight months, either by his teams or voluntarily.

Basso presented the panel with a dossier of more than 60 doping tests that the UCI has administered on him during his career, all of which came back negative.

Olympic committee chief prosecutor Ettore Torri maintained that Basso's collaboration has not been not complete, although he did note that the rider provided the name of a courier, Alberto Leon, who is believed to have brought sacks of blood between Basso and the doctor at the center of the probe, Eufemiano Fuentes.

``I told them everything I knew,'' Basso said.
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