BERLIN (AFP) — Germany’s only Tour de France winner, Jan Ullrich, turns 40 on Monday, insisting he has come to terms with his doping past.
Ullrich, who retired in 2007 having won the 1997 Tour, admitted earlier this year that he had resorted to blood doping during his career with the help of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
“Yes, I had access to treatment from Fuentes,” Ullrich told the German weekly Focus in June.
“At that time, nearly everyone was using doping substances and I used nothing that the others were not using.”
The German, who also won road-race gold and time-trial silver medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, said he was motivated by the desire to compete against his rivals on a level playing field.
In February 2012, Ullrich was found guilty of a doping offense by the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) and retrospectively banned from cycling from August 2011. He was also stripped of his results since May 2005.
Today, Ullrich lives with his wife, Sara, and three sons on the shores of Lake Constance in Switzerland.
He spends his days looking after his growing family and makes a living from professional engagements, such as taking part in cycle rides with fee-paying fans.
“Overall, I feel totally happy,” says Ullrich, who looks fit enough to race still. “The life I now lead would be a holiday for many people.”
But nearly seven years after retiring, Ullrich’s doping offenses have never been fully explained.
“I have finished with the subject,” Ullrich told German radio broadcaster NDR. “I have taken my punishment, I regret what I did and I stand behind my mistakes.”
Legal troubles still hang over Ullrich, who has been taken to court by former Team Coast sponsor Gunther Dahms, who demands repayment of three months of salary (about $402,000).
The case will be heard next February in Essen, Germany.
And Ullrich refuses to comment on a report from the French senate, released in July, which named him as one of the cyclists who retroactively tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO during the 1998 Tour.
“I have to live with the bad and good,” said, Ullrich, adding that he likes to live “in the present” and prefers not to look back.
“I can live with it comfortably as I have my life back on track.”
While Lance Armstrong’s doping admission rocked the cycling world in January, there has never been — and there is unlikely to ever be — a similar confession from his German rival.
Ullrich says he draws strength from his family and meeting with enthusiastic fans.
“This is a good thing for me and it’s motivating. It kind of shows that people still like me,” he said.
“That makes me feel good.”