Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong’s great rival Jan Ullrich — the only German winner of Tour de France — has for the first time admitted to doping with the help of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes who ran a large-scale doping network.
“Yes, I had access to treatment from Fuentes,” the 1997 winner of the Tour de France told the Focus weekly in its edition to appear on Monday. “At that time, nearly everyone was using doping substances and I used nothing that the others were not using.”
Ullrich, who rose to prominence in cycling when he won gold and silver medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, said he was motivated by the desire to be competing on a level playing field with his main rivals.
“In my view you can only call it cheating on my part when it is clear that I have gained an unfair advantage,” he argued. “That was not the case. All I wanted was everyone to have the same chances of winning.”
He also told Focus that he believed that the main factors contributing towards success in cycling were pure talent, effort, team spirit and the will to win and that the damage he had done by doping was mainly to himself.
“It was myself who suffered most because of this episode as concerns my public image and what it meant for my own health.” he said. “Now it is time to bring down the curtain on all of this. I want to look to the future and no longer be dragged back to the past.”
Ullrich’s doping admission comes months after a similar public pronouncement by his greatest career rival and nemesis Armstrong, the cancer survivor whose seven Tour de France wins had placed him in the pantheon of sporting legends.
Armstrong, however, admitted to doping throughout his career in January and was stripped of his Tour titles and banned for life.
Ullrich had three second-place finishes behind Armstrong in the Tour de France in 2000, 2001 and 2003 and was also runner-up behind Italian Marco Pantini in 1998, the year after he won the race.
“We are both guilty," said Ullrich, referring to the American. “I am no better than Armstrong, but no worse either. The great heroes of old are now people with failings that we’ve got to come to terms with. I always knew that even Lance Armstrong would not get away with it.”
Ullrich was barred from the Tour de France in 2006 amid speculation that he had used illegal substances. He retired from cycling in February, 2007, denying that he had ever cheated.
He was later found guilty of a doping offence by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in February, 2012, and retroactively banned from August of that year with all results gained since May, 2005, wiped from his slate.