Discovery Channel Pro Cycling team announced that Ivan Basso will be released from his contract with the team. Basso cited "personal reasons related to the re-opened investigation by the Italian Olympic Committees (CONI)."
According to a Discovery Channel press release, Basso met with General Manager Bill Stapleton and Team Director Johan Bruyneel after requesting a meeting on Sunday. In response to Basso's request to leave the team, the two have take the steps to release him from the team.
"This was a very difficult decision, for me and my family, but I think it is the right thing to do. Johan, Bill, and my teammates have always believed in me and shown me great respect. This decision is my way of showing them that same respect," stated Basso according to the press release. "The Team is trying to find a new sponsor and win bike races, and my situation is a distraction to both of those goals. It is important that everyone knows this was 100% my decision. Nobody asked me to leave. I am grateful to all of the staff and riders and wish them the best of luck."
Basso was originally named in the Operación Puerto scandal last summer and kept from competing in the Tour de France in July of 2006. Although Basso's case was shelved by the Italian Cycling Federation, opening the door for Basso to be hired by Team Discovery, the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) re-opened the investigation last week. That's when Discovery's management asked Basso "not to compete until more information was available." Basso will appear before the CONI on Wednesday May 2.
"Ivan's request was unexpected and he was very emotional, but adamant, about his decision to be released. We spoke with him at length before granting his request. Although he was only on our Team for a short time, he was a great leader and a very well respected and selfless teammate. I, along with the entire Team, wish him the best," said Johan Bruyneel.
"Ivan was a great addition to our Team and I am very sad to see him go. He was one of our leaders and we expected big things from him this season, however, this Team has 15 wins in 2007 and we have great depth and talent on our roster. We will continue to win and be competitive in all of our races, including the Tour De France," commented General Manager Bill Stapleton. "When we signed Ivan, all the necessary governing authorities had cleared him. He deserved a Team and we had always wanted to sign him. We did our due diligence and we have no regrets."
Discovery Channel team is seeking a sponsor for 2008, but despite the situation with Basso, Tailwind Sports General Manager Bill Stapleton remains optimistic about the Team's future.