Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France winner, has admitted for the first time that he received blood-doping treatment from Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes during his career, according to an interview with a German magazine published Saturday.
Ullrich had previously acknowledged having unspecified “contact” with Fuentes, but went further in an interview with the weekly Focus.
“Yes, I received treatment from Fuentes,” the 39-year-old German rider was quoted as saying. He said he couldn’t remember how many times he had received treatment from Fuentes.
Ullrich’s interview comes one week before the start of the 100th Tour de France and five months after Lance Armstrong, the dominant cyclist of his generation, acknowledged that he doped for all seven of his Tour wins from 1999-2005. On three of those occasions, Ullrich finished second.
Armstrong said doping became so routine it was “like saying we have to have air in our tires or water in our bottles.”
Asked about that comment, Ullrich told Focus: “I can’t understand that. I always knew that I was doing something forbidden and wrong.”
Ullrich said that although he had made bad decisions during his career, “I did not harm or defraud anyone.”
“Almost everyone took performance-enhancing substances then. I took nothing that the others didn’t also take. For me, fraud starts when I gain an advantage. That wasn’t the case. I wanted to ensure equality of opportunities.”
In February 2012, the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned Ullrich for two years for blood doping.
The CAS ruled that the German was “fully engaged” in Fuentes’ doping program, which was exposed in the Operation Puerto probe.
The court stripped Ullrich of his third-place finish at the 2005 Tour. He didn’t contest the CAS ruling, saying at the time that he wanted to “put an end to the issue,” and he retired in 2007.
IOC vice president Thomas Bach said the confession is “too little, too late.”
“Jan Ullrich had his chance for a creditable admission a couple of years ago and he missed it,” Bach said in a statement. “Today’s confirmation of some of the already well-known and established facts does not help Jan Ullrich nor cycling.”The Associated Press