Telekom soigneur's revelations ensure another week of doping stories
This report filed May 26, 2007
Former Telekom soigneur Jef d'Hont said he injected 1997 Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich with the banned blood booster erythropoietin (EPO), adding another element to a series of damaging revelations regarding Germany's top pro cycling team.
D'Hont, the former Telekom soigneur whose recent published memoirs led to a string of stunning confessions from former team riders, said in an interview published in Sunday's Bild magazine that he injected Ullrich with EPO.
"I injected him once with EPO in the arm," said D'Hont. "It lasted around 10 seconds. It was as if I was injecting some insulin into someone who was ill."
It is the first time that D'Hont has revealed who on the Telekom team he administered drugs to.
Ullrich has been under suspicion of doping since being implicated, along with dozens of other riders, in the Spanish doping investigation dubbed Operación Puerto which has engulfed the sport for the past year.
The 33-year-old German has always denied being involved in the affair, which was uncovered by police in Spain and led to the arrest of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes after doping products and bags of blood were found on his premises.
After months of denials, Ivan Basso, the apparent winner of the 2006 Giro d'Italia, recently admitted he worked with Fuentes. The 29-year-old Basso stopped short of saying he actually doped, but is still facing a 21-month sanction from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) and an addition 21-month exclusion from riding on a ProTour team.
Since being suspended from last year's Tour Ullrich retired from the sport, although existing suspicion has been heightened in the wake of some stunning confessions from Ullrich's former team-mates this week.
Bjarne Riis, the 1996 Tour de France winner, admitted on Friday he had used EPO while at Telekom, who also won the race in 1997 thanks to Ullrich.
Several of Riis's former Telekom teammates, including top sprinter Erik Zabel, Rolf Aldag, Bert Dietz, Christian Henn and Udo Bölts, have also admitted using the drug.
The drama provided by the series of surprising confessions took another twist Saturday when a doctor employed by several sports federations in Germany admitted supplying drugs to amateur cyclists between 1980 and 1990.
Georg Huber, a top physician at the University of Fribourg clinic, was immediately suspended from his post by the German cycling federation (BDR) after admitting to the offenses.
Huber said he had given the banned male sex hormone testosterone to amateur riders during 1980-1990, according to a statement by the University clinic of Fribourg - considered Germany's top sports medicine facility.
The bombshells dropped this week by Zabel and Riis - two of the German team's highest profile stars - are being seen as a positive development as cycling fights to rebuild its image.
UCI president Pat McQuaid said Saturday that the revelations are a positive sign.
"The confessions from Germany and Denmark show that people are now ready to speak out. This is extremely positive," McQuaid said. "The law of silence no longer applies - each person must now assume the full consequences of their actions."
More than eight years on, Riis and the other repentant riders cannot now be sanctioned, although the 43-year-old Dane suggested that he is ready to hand back the yellow jersey from his 1996 victory.
The UCI and Tour de France officials feel it would be a symbolic gesture that would help put the sport on a more sound footing.
It now remains to be seen if the latest claims against Ullrich, one of the Tour de France's main protagonists over the past decade, will lead to a similar result.
D'Hont claimed that Ullrich was only following other riders in taking EPO, and he urged the German to follow his former team-mates in confessing.
"He did the same as all the others. It would be good for him to speak out and get things out into the open, it would liberate him," added D'Hont, who nonetheless could not hide his admiration for the 2000 Olympic champion who finished a runner-up five time on the Tour.
"Frankly, if the rest of the peloton was clean, Ullrich would have won the Tour de France at least 10 times," D'Hont said.