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Cycling News Flash for May 26, 2007

Edited by Sue George with assistance from Katharina Schulz

Former Tour de France winner Riis admits doping

"I have doped. I have taken EPO."

Team manager Bjarne Riis
Photo ©: Gerry McManus
(Click for larger image)

1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis, who is now the owner and manager of Team CSC, admitted doping in a Friday press conference at CSC headquarters in Lyngby, just outside Copenhagen. The Dane, who was then riding for Team Telekom, said he took EPO in 1996, the year that he ended Miguel Indurain's five-year Tour de France winning streak.

"The time has come to put the cards on the table," said Riis. "I have done things which I now regret and which I wouldn't do again. I have doped. I have taken EPO. For awhile it was part if my life."

When a journalist questioned Riis about what else he took besides EPO, he responded that he also took hormones and cortisone.

Besides winning the Tour de France, Riis also won the 1997 Amstel Gold Race, several stages in the Giro d'Italia and multiple Danish national championships.

Riis accepted responsibility for doping, saying he bought the drugs himself. He said he lied to himself and others and wants to apologize.

"My yellow jersey is in box at home, you can come and collect it," said Riis of his 1996 Tour performance. "What matters to me are my memories."

Riis' doping was never a secret among his family. He said his wife and kids always knew. Riis offerered no new information regarding allegations of doping by former teammate Jan Ullrich. "I do not know whether he doped or not, and Jan should do what is best for him."

Riis released the following prepared statement in conjunction with the press conference:

"After the long run of confessions concerning the Telekom team in the 1990s, I have decided to give a statement about my involvement.

"I have decided this for two reasons.

"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.

"I think if we are to talk about doping, we should talk about what to do now and not about the mistakes in the past. The recent developments in Germany have taken the balance out of this and therefore I want to set the record straight. And I want to do this, because the future of cycling needs the right focus.

"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. We are the number one team in the world for the second year running and I want my riders and sponsors to be proud of that. They work, within the rules, with passion, professionalism and commitment and I want them to keep on doing that. When I was a rider in the 1990s, I worked extremely hard to get my results. I worked extremely hard, day in day out and I sacrificed a lot just even to be part of the best. In that time, the perspective on doping and preparation was wrong and misguided.

"That also means that I did things that I shouldn't have and I have regretted that ever since. Those were mistakes that I take the full responsibility for and I don't have anyone to blame but myself. We all make mistakes and I think my biggest mistake was to let my ambition get the better of me. That I have had to deal with a long time ago and I am glad to say that I am a lot wiser now. Both in my personal and in my professional life.

"I don't want the mistakes of my personal past to stand in the way of the work we are doing today. I did what it took to compete at the highest level back then, and it's a deep satisfaction for me that those days are long gone and the sport has moved in the right direction. If that wasn't the case, I wouldn't be here today.

"I have learned from my past - for better and for worse. The experience and wisdom I have gained informed my decision to come back to cycling and has energized me to create the best team in the world."

Stay tuned to Cyclingnews for more detailed coverage of Riis' press conference.

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