BERLIN — Jan Ullrich, the 1997 Tour de France winner, 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 German rider was quoted as saying.
Asked if he only engaged in blood doping with Fuentes, Ullrich replied that “the doctor’s diagnosis says that.” He said he couldn’t remember how many times he had received treatment from Fuentes.
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 Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes’ doping program, exposed in the Operation Puerto probe. The court stripped him of his third-place finish at the 2005 Tour. Ullrich retired in 2007.
Ullrich didn’t contest the CAS ruling, saying at the time that he wanted to “put an end to the issue.”
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 an emailed statement. “Today’s confirmation of some of the already well known and established facts does not help Jan Ullrich nor cycling.”
The head of Germany’s cycling union echoed that sentiment.
“He would have done himself and cycling a favor years ago with such a confession,” Rudolf Scharping told German news agency dpa. “But this no longer has anything to do with cycling today.”
In Saturday’s interview, the 39-year-old Ullrich said that while 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,” he was quoted as saying. “For me, fraud starts when I gain an advantage. That wasn’t the case. I wanted to ensure equality of opportunities.
“The issue is dealt with for me. I only want to look forward, and never again backward.”
Germany’s national anti-doping agency said it welcomed acknowledgement of past wrongdoing by athletes, but added that it hoped Ullrich would go beyond the interview and answer its questions.
The agency said in a statement that it would try to get in touch with Ullrich for “further leads and background” which might help its work.
Ullrich’s interview comes after Lance Armstrong, the dominant cyclist of his generation, acknowledged in January that he doped for all seven of his Tour wins from 1999-2005. On three of those occasions, Ullrich finished second.
“I am no better than Armstrong, but no worse either,” Ullrich was quoted as saying. “The great ‘heroes’ of earlier years are now people with failures that they have to come to terms with.”
Earlier this year, 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.”