It seems extraordinary that one of the biggest doping scandals in international sport hasn't been mentioned in the UK Press although BBC Online gave it a mention. Allegations that doping is endemic in professional cycling across Europe persists and have damaged the sport's image. Until now the cyclists, their doctors and trainers have maintained a code of silence a cyclists omerta.
Last Thursday 24th May Eric Zabel, still an active rider who rides for Milram and Rolf Aldag, were support riders for the Telekom team when its star riders Bjarne Riis in 1996 and Jan Ullrich in 1997 won the Tour de France faced a nationally televised news conference organised by T-Mobile at their HQ in Bonn.
Zabel, and Aldag (sporting director of the T-Mobile team, previously known as Telekom) both admitted that they took the blood-boosting drug EPO. Both said they were ashamed of their actions and apologized.
Zabel broke into tears during his confession and said he only took the drug in the first week of the 1996 Tour and did not repeat because he had some side effects. He said he has been riding clean since. .
Zabel, 36, one of Germany's top riders and has had 192 victories winning the Milan-San Remo classic 4 times, with 12 stage wins in the Tour de France and took the points green jersey 6 times. He was also a silver medallist in the 2006 World Championships.
Aldag confessed that ...."I started doping with EPO before the 1995 Tour ..... "I doped because I could. For me, and probably for many others, EPO was this miracle drug." Aldag said he first obtained EPO from team worker d'Hont and later from "Freiburg," - the University of Freiburg clinic that employed Telekom team doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich.
This all started when former Telekom's Belgian massage therapist Jef d'Hont earlier this month said that two doctors gave EPO to some of the team's top riders, including Riis and Ullrich. he worked for Team telekom from 1992 to 1996 at Team Telekom. In an article published in DER SPIEGEL, he had described how doping has been commonplace in the sport for more than 40 years
Bert Dietz went on national television on Monday and acknowledged taking EPO, which enhances endurance by boosting the level of oxygen-rich blood cells in the system claiming he was introduced to Schmid and Heinrich.
Schmid and Heinrich released separate statements to the media late Wednesday confirming their involvement with doping in the 1990s while they were working for Telekom. Both were promptly sacked by the clinic on Thursday.
Ullrich (43) retired in February this year denying he had ever used doping and is head of the Team CSC (Computer Science Corp. US$7 MN backers) . However Riis confessed at a news conference in Copenhagen on Friday:"I have taken doping. I have taken EPO. I have made errors and I would like to apologize." He said that he used EPO, a blood booster, from 1993 to 1998 and added that he had also used cortisone and human growth hormone, without specifying when.
"First of all, I'm doing this to keep the focus on the work we are doing today that keeps cycling in the right perspective. The massive steps we have taken to fight doping and the ways in which we have secured that the team rests on the right and proper foundations. "Second of all, I'm doing this to get rid of the endless discussions about things that are truly in the past and that I personally have put behind a long time ago. I don't want my personal past to overshadow that work and brilliant effort that Team CSC is doing today."
For 2007 Team CSC have taken on Dr Rasmus Damsgaard who will oversee out of competition tests, which will be run in addition to the normal battery of UCI/WADA sanctioned out of competition plus regular in-competition programmes. Apart from monitoring for an unusual (or positive) once-off reading, those samples taken on the team's behalf will also enable a longitudinal record to be gathered. This profile will help define the normal parameters for each rider, with any sudden change likely to result in further investigation.
Asked if he would yield the Tour title, Riis said, "My jersey is at home in a cardboard box. They are welcome to come and get it. I have my memories for myself."
Ullrich's lawyer, Peter-Michael Diestel, said there won't be any new statements from his client, who is under a criminal investigation in Bonn on fraud charges - he then resigned.
Schmid and Heinrich released separate statements to the media late Wednesday confirming their involvement with doping in the 1990s while they were working for Telekom. Schmid said he never gave any drugs to riders without their knowledge.
Heinrich also confirmed he'd been involved in doping.
"I took part in the doping of riders in the course of my work as a sports doctor," he said.
Both were fired by the clinic Thursday.
In Denmark, Brian Holm, a former member of the Telekom team in the 1990s, confirmed that he also had taken EPO.
Christian Henn, now a sporting director with the Gerolsteiner team, also admitted using EPO earlier this week and another former Telekom rider, Udo Boelts, confessed late on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Wiesenhof, a second-tier team, faced an uncertain future after losing its title sponsor.
Meanwhile 2 major doping scandals also involve 2006 Tour de France winner Floyd Landis and Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso both of whom resolutely deny any wrongdoing. The Floyd Landis arbitration hearing in Malibu into Landis's two-year ban for dopingwas treated to remarkable claims of sexual abuse and proven blackmai by Landi's agent.
Faced with a 21-month suspension for doping, Basso (who was sacked by Riis's Team CSC on the eve of the Tour de France 2006) may be ready to cooperate with the Italian authorities and tell all.
Deutsche Telekom is of course 32% owned by the German Government and so senior politicians have waded in - being hugely embarassed by these seedy and irrefutable disclosures.Chancellor Angela Merkel found time whilst planning the G8 Summit to appear on TV and call a rigorous investigation. "There has evidently been systematic and continued manipulation of unimaginable proportions in professional cycling," the chancellor said. "The confessions and investigations undertaken so far aren't sufficient to clean the sport up." All "doping sinners" now had the opportunity to come clean and help the sport to start again, she said.
Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble busy rounding up left wing rabble who may distract world leaders at Heilingerdam said he was "appalled that there has been lying and deceit on this scale." (So unusual in german politics) He has set up a task force to check whether taxpayers' money had been misused in the process and would push hard for a rapid passage through parliament of a new anti-doping-law - that was handily already drafted. The law permits house searches and telephone tapping in doping investigations as well as lenient treatment for people who come forward to testify.
"My big fear is now that the doping revelations won't stay confined to cycling," said Schäuble.
The Forsa institute say a survey they undertook showed that 59% of Germans agree with the proposal that there isn't a performance sport in which doping doesn't happen.
What next ? Linford Christie, oldest champion of the Olympic 100m, winning gold at 32 in Barcelona going to 'fess up ?