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T-Mobile sacks Ullrich

By VeloNews.com • Published

By Rupert Guinness, VeloNews.com

German star Jan Ullrich will not be welcomed back at the T-Mobile team that has sacked him due to doping allegations against him, even if he proves he is innocent.

The German T-Mobile squad has confirmed that it has terminated its contract with Ullrich after the 1997 Tour de France champion made his dismissal public first.

Ullrich, 32, was sacked on Thursday night, along with his Spanish teammate Oscar Sevilla. The two had been suspended due to their implication in the Spanish drugs investigation named “Operacíon Puerto.” And Ullrich slammed the team for the way it sacked him.

“I am very disappointed that this decision was not communicated to me personally, but that it was faxed to my lawyers,” said Ullrich on his personal website yesterday.

“I find it shameful that after many years of a good and fruitful working relationship and after all I have done for the team, (that) I am merely sent a fax.”

While his agent Wolfgang Strohband reportedly said Ullrich will take legal action against the team, a spokesman for T-Mobile said it would not take him back even if he is proven innocent.

Asked if Ullrich could race again should the allegations prove to be false, T-Mobile communications manager Christian Frommert replied: “Maybe for another team.

Asked if Ullrich could return to T-Mobile, Frommert said: “I don’t think so … because we believe he is involved in the doping (scandal) in Spain. That is why we suspended him.

“(Also), he is 32 and I don’t know what the associations will do – the Swiss association (Ullrich is registered with). I don’t what the UCI will do. That is not our job.”

Frommert said he hoped Ullrich would be cleared, but then reminded the media that so far the rider had not accepted the team’s requests to undergo DNA tests.

“We want that he proves his innocence. But he said to us: ‘I don’t prove my innocence,’” said Frommert.

The team was also legally obliged to terminate Ullrich’s contract, Frommert said, explaining that German law does not allow a suspension to exceed beyond three weeks.

“You can’t have a suspension for five weeks, or six weeks … you only have it for three weeks,” said Frommert, adding the team had planned to announce Ullrich’s sacking next week.

“Legally we had to make a decision. We talked and said: ‘Okay … next week there are more conversations and that we want to communicate (the news) on Tuesday or Wednesday. Now Jan has communicated it on his homepage. But the facts are right. We have terminated the contract with Jan and Oscar Sevilla. Officially, yesterday.”

Until his sacking, Ullrich and Sevilla had been on suspension with sports director Rudy Pevenage since the eve of the Tour start in Strasbourg on July 1. Pevenage was fired earlier this month. Then, Ullrich, Sevilla and 11 other riders were made to leave the Tour after they (or their colleagues) were implicated in the Spanish drugs sting. Italian Ivan Basso (CSC) and Spaniard Francisco Mancebo (Ag2r) were two of those investigated. Kazakh Alexandre Vinokourov, while not implicated, was not allowed to race after his Astaná-Würth team was denied a start because a number of its riders were suspected.

Frommert said he understood why Ullrich made such an emotional outburst about his sacking on the website. “Everybody is upset about the situation. You got the termination (notice) and I think it is okay that he said, ‘I am very disappointed’,” said Frommert.

“We are disappointed about the situation, which we have to terminate this contract. I think that in a few days the lawyers will talk together.”

The decision to cut Ullrich was not due to any new information coming to the team, said Frommert. “The information we had before was enough. This is why we suspended him

For Ullrich’s former teammates like Australian Michael Rogers, the news came as a shock. They didn’t know about it until after being told at the finish at Morzine.

“We are sorry. I just found out after the stage. The team had to make a decision, and it looks like they made a decision, and it is final,” Rogers told Pelotonpress.net

“Of course, we are sorry. You don’t wish that upon any teammate. But that is life and the team has to march on.”

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