Ex-Tour de France cham admits doping
COPENHAGEN, Denmark ” Former Danish cyclist Bjarne Riis admitted Friday he used performance-enhancing drugs during his 1996 Tour de France victory.
“I have taken doping. I have taken EPO,” Riis said during a televised news conference. “I have made errors and I would like to apologize.”
Riis said he also used cortisone and human growth hormone, and that he didn’t suffer any side effects from EPO, a blood-boosting hormone.
“The only effect I had was that I rode faster,” he said.
Riis said he used the substances from 1993 to 1998, including during his Tour victory. Riis said he no longer considers himself a worthy winner of the Tour, and indicated he would be willing to give back the title.
“My jersey is at home in a cardboard box,” said Riis, now manager of the CSC team. “They are welcome to come and get it. I have my memories for myself.”
There was no immediate comment from the UCI, the sport’s governing body, which would determine whether a rider could be stripped of a Tour title.
Riis’ admission came as 2006 Tour winner Floyd Landis awaited a ruling in his doping case. Landis, who tested positive for synthetic testosterone, could be stripped of his title and banned from cycling for two years if found guilty. An arbitration panel considered his case in a nine-day hearing that ended this week.
The top three finishers in the 1996 Tour all have been linked to doping ” and now two have confessed. Runner-up Jan Ullrich retired in February after being implicated in the recent Spanish doping scandal, and third-place rider Richard Virenque was kicked out of the 1998 Tour and later admitted doping in a court confession. Ullrich has denied using performance-enhancing substances.
Riis’ confession came a day after Eric Zabel and Rolf Aldag, two Germans who were support riders for Riis on the Telekom team, admitted using performance-enhancing drugs while riding for the team in the 1990s. They also said they took EPO ” or erythropoietin ” a synthetic hormone that stimulates the production of oxygen-carrying red blood cells.
“Now time has come to put the cards on the table,” Riis said as he calmly read a statement before a packed news conference. “I have done things which I have regretted.”
Danish rider Brian Holm, another former member of the Telekom team, also confirmed Thursday he had taken EPO.
Riis, the only Dane to have won the Tour de France, has been a national hero in the small Nordic country with a cycling tradition. Until now, he repeatedly denied taking performance-enhancing drugs during his 14-year career as a professional cyclist.
Riis said he will remain with CSC, a Danish team that recently launched what it described as the most rigorous anti-doping program in cycling.
“I did this for the sake of the team, so the team can continue,” he said.
In Rome, the ANSA news agency reported that the Italian Olympic Committee has recommended defending Giro d’Italia champion Ivan Basso be banned from cycling for 21 months because of his involvement in the Spanish doping scandal. Basso has confessed to “attempted doping,” but said he never went through with it.
In Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged cyclists who used performance-enhancing drugs to come clean.
“The confessions and investigations so far are not sufficient to sort things out,” Merkel said in a statement Friday. “All doping sinners now have the chance to be honest and break the cartel of silence, if they want to give their sport the chance of a clean new beginning, free from manipulation.”