Jan Ullrich suspended from Tour de France over doping
30 June 2006
STRASBOURG – Former champion Jan Ullrich and co-favourite Ivan Basso lead a large number of riders who were on Friday suspended from competing at the Tour de France, starting on Saturday, in connection with a Spanish doping probe.
It is the biggest scandal in cycling since Festina were kicked out and other teams quit the 1998 Tour over another doping affair.
Team managers and tour organizers agreed at an emergency meeting to suspend the riders and not to allow the teams to replace them for the July 1-23 event, Tour co-director Christian Prudhomme said.
Germany’s T-Mobile team had led the way by suspending Ullrich, team-mate Oscar Sevilla and team official Rudy Pevenage before the meeting.
A total of 58 riders are mentioned in a report by Spanish authorities in connection with the probe into a doping scheme run by Madrid doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
Not all of them were set to ride at the Tour, but with Ullrich, the Giro d’Italia winner Basso and Joseba Beloki the event is deprived of the top favourites before it has even started.
The list of riders has so far not been published, but Friday’s suspensions were carried out after Tour officials and teams were given access to the official Spanish documentation.
“The enemy is not cycling, the enemy is doping,” said Prudhomme, insisting that the Tour will do everything to be a clean event.
The internet edition of Germany’s Bild daily spoke of a “Tour de Farce” and German Milram team rider Erik Zabel simply spoke of “a sad day for cycling.”
But Prudhomme also spoke of the unique opportunity to see “another kind of Tour,” a view shared by German Thomas Bach, a vice-president of the International Olympic Committee.
“All those involved should see it as an opportunity in the fight against doping,” said Bach.
Ullrich, 32, was suspended in the morning.
“We had to act after we received a fax in the morning from the Tour organizers ASO with the names of the riders under investigation by Spanish police. The new findings were sufficient for us to say: It is impossible to work together with the three,” said T-Mobile communications director Christian Frommert.
“We have reason to doubt their declarations of innocence, that they have nothing to do with the affair. But Ullrich, Sevilla and Pevenage will have the chance to prove their innocence.”
Ullrich, who has protested his innocence, is reportedly in the team hotel and has yet to comment.
Basso’s CSC team boss Bjarne Riis, a Tour winner in 1996 and team- mate of Ullrich at the time, also said he had to deprive Basso of a chance to get a rare Giro and Tour double.
“It was my responsibility to suspend Basso. I have to think of the team, that is the most important thing. I have confidence in Ivan. But now it’s up to him and his lawyers to provide proof (of his innocence),” said Riis.
The affair broke on May 23 with police raids and the detention of doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, former Liberty team official Manolo Saiz and three other men. The five have since been released on bail.
Police seized blood bags, doping substances and documents. Fuentes is suspected of being the key man in the scheme.
The El Pais daily on Monday linked Ullrich and his advisor Rudy Pevenage to the case by citing the documents which listed the names “Jan” and “Hijo Rudicio” (the son of Rudicio), with investigators looking into whether Ullrich was “Jan” and/or the son of Rudicio, the last-named then being a code for Rudy Pevenage.
T-Mobile spokesman Stefan Wagner said on Friday that “there has clearly been contact between the riders and the Spanish doctor.”
Wagner said that Ullrich’s contract will not be renewed beyond the season if he can’t provide evidence of his innocence, for instance through a DNA test.
If not, it could mean the end of Ullrich’s illustrious career.
Ullrich won the Tour in 1997 and finished second on five other occasions. He won Olympic road race gold at the 2000 Games in Sydney and is a former time-trial world champion.
Subject: German news