Doping: Wave of confessions of former Telekom riders

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25.05.2007/ Since Monday a wave of former Telekom riders confessed they used epo during the nineties. Two team doctors of the university of Freiburg were fired by the T-Mobile team and the university. Ullrich manager Wolfgang Strohband denied German press reports that Ullrich will comment about the confessions of the former Telekom riders.

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Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag confessed epo use on May 24 (Picture: Cyclingheroes)

After the German magazine Der Spiegel published a story about the book of former Telekom soigneur Jef D'Hondt on April 30, a wave of confessions of former Telekom riders. On Monday former Telekom rider Bert Dietz confessed that he used epo in the German tv programm Beckmann. Dietz who was riding for the Telekom team from 1994 to 1998 confirmed a lot allegations that D'Hondt made in his book. Dietz said to moderator Reinhold Beckmann: "When the doctors were there, they gave us the shots themselves." Dietz coninued by saying: "When they weren't there, than the soigneurs did it, that is, Jef d'Hondt."

Dietz said he had problems with the way some people talked about Jan Ullrich after the break out of the Puerto scandal. Dietz was not willing to speak about other former team mates but he did speak about Jef D'Hondt and the team doctors of the university of Freiburg, Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmidt. He also spoke about the sponsor, the German company Telekom. According to Dietz it all started in 1995: "It was during a training camp on Mallorca in the spring. The doctors were becoming more and more involved in our training plans, at the wish of Telekom. In individual discussions, which they held with everyone, they first described the general situation in cycling. Then they came to the specific situation of Team Telekom; that we have pressure on us in the spring. And when we wanted to ride in the front, then we would probably have to try this new product. It was roughly explained how it worked and what side effects and risks it had. That was, in principle, the decision, that we would do it."

Dietz said he felt he did not realy had a choice if he wanted to stay at the team, saying: "They offered it, but of course in such a way that everyone knew If I don't take this now, then probably I will have such bad results at the end of the year, that my contract won't be extended. So, yes, it was pretty obvious."

Dietz said it was easier to confess for him as he is only indirectly involved in cycling at the moment: "Other riders must be afraid of losing their job and never again being hired by a team." Still Dietz lost his job as race director of the Neuseenclassics on Wednesday. In a statement at the organisation of the Neuseenclassics said: "We have followed the statements of Bert Dietz with respect. Bert Dietz was the race director of the pro race Neuseen classics - rund um die braunkohle and made a significant contribution that the event developed so well. In the intrest of the complete event with 5000 hobby athletes, youth and schoolkids and to take care that the media interest will not focus on only one item we decided amicably with Bert Dietz that he will not act as race director this year."

On Tuesday Christian Henn, who was riding for the Telekom squad from 1995 to 1999 told German daily newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger: "I was involved, too."  Henn continued by saying: "That's how it was at the time, otherwise you just couldn't keep up." Henn retired after he tested positive for testosterone. Henn is now a sports director of the Gerolsteiner team and team manager Hans Michael Holczer said he would not sack Henn because that would support the 'cartel of silence'. 

On Wednesday former Telekom rider Udo Bölts also confessed he used epo in the nineties. Bölts resigned one day later as sports director at Gerolsteiner.

On Thursday there was a press conference in Bonn at the T-Mobile head quarters. During the press conference Rolf Aldag and Erik Zabel confessed to have used epo as well. "I took EPO in 1996 but I stopped after a week because of secondary effects," said Zabel. "It was my only experience with doping in my whole career." Zabel told he also used the famous cocktail of soigneur Jef D'Hondt during his career but insisted he did not know what ingredients were in the famous drink of D'Hondt. Rolf Aldag admitted taking epo between 1995 and 2002: "Before the Tour (Tour de France) in 1995 I began using EPO and continued using it," Aldag said. Erik Zabel had tears in his eyes as he talked about his son, who is racing as well. Zabel said he never want to have to lie to his son again and that he hopes that his son can race with better conditions. Zabel was the first former Telekom rider who is still active as a pro who confessed to have used epo.  Zabel does not know what konsequenses his confession will have: "I don't know what is going to happen to me in the future but the time had come to tell the truth about the past," the 6 time winner of the green jersey said.  Martin Mischel, director marketing and sales of  Zabels current team sponsor Nordmilch AG, said: "For us as a comparatively young cycling sponsor any form of coming to terms with the past is important to be sure that we invest into clean cycling. The avowal does not influence the decision on the continuance of the sponsoring engagement. According to agreement, the cooperation will be continued. For our brand Milram no kind of connection to the matter of doping is imaginable. We always made it plain to our riders that successes are only of worth for us if they are achieved on a natural basis. We don’t want sporty successes at any cost. Therefore, a clear principle applies since the foundation of Team Milram: If anybody dopes in our team, he’s out. For us, a one-to-one conversation with Erik Zabel is important to decide how we can react appropriately on his declaration." Rolf Aldag will stay sports director at the T-Mobile team. Team manager Bob Stapleton said: We want to keep working with him."

On the same day T-Mobile sports director Brain Holms also confessed the use of epo and team doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmidt admitted to have given doping products to Telekom riders. "I supported doping individual cycling professionals from the mid-1990s," Dr Andreas Schmid said in a statement released by his lawyer. "I made available to cyclists, upon request, drug substances, especially epo," said Schmid. He continued by saying: "never gave any sportsman doping materials unknowingly or against their will." Schimdt and Heinrich were sacked by the T-Mobile team and the university of Freiburg. The university also announced that they will stop the cooperation with 1500 athletes of various sports disciplines.

As reported on Friday former Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis admitted to have used epo, cortisone and growth hormones from 1993 untill 1998. Riis said he acted on his own but the team doctors knew about it. Riis was asked again and again if he knew Jan Ullrich took epo as well. Riis said he would not talk about that because he "did not care". If people want to know that they should asl Ullrich. On Friday afternoon German daily newspaper Die Welt cla imedthat Jan Ullrich soon will make a statement about the wave of confessions of epo use at Telekom in the nineties. But a little later a statement on Ullrichs website said that the reports in the German media were not correct. Ullrich manager Strohband said: "There is no reason for Jan to comment publicly." Good news for Jan Ullrich could be that the fraud case against the 1997 Tour de France winner could be dropped. Professor Britta Bannenberg and the state prosecution of Bonn both said that if Telekom knew about the doping practises of the team there would be no fraud case since in that case the company would not have been cheated by Ullrich. On Thursday Ullrich manager Wolfgang Strohband told Bild that Ullrich sacked one of his lawyers: Peter-Michael Diestel. But Diestel said he resigned and he would sue anyone who would tell something different. The remaining Ullrich lawyers appealed against a desicion of a Swiss court to hand over several items that were seized during the raid of Ullrichs house.

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