German cyclists are forging a new path with the Tour de France’s Grand Départ in Dusseldorf. However, the specter of retired rider Jan Ullrich still looms, and Thursday, sprinter Marcel Kittel said that Germany’s only Tour champion should explain himself.
Ullrich is the only German to have won the Tour, back in 1997, although he later admitted to having doped during his career.
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“The Ullrich case was investigated by others, but he himself did not do much to explain to the public what happened and deal with his past. But everybody deserves a second chance,” Kittel said at a pre-Tour press conference in Dusseldorf.
Speaking in German, Kittel went on to explain that he feels Ullrich should be more open about his past.
“He has to deal with his past, this is what the German public expects. He has to say clearly what happened, and that’s the big problem,” Kittel said. Quick-Step press officer Alessandro Tegner confirmed the translation from Kittel’s native tongue.
“If he did that, then I think that he would be back on the cycling circuit, and he would be welcome to the Tour de France like the others. But it’s the decision of Jan,” Kittel added.
Ullrich, who also won Olympic gold in Sydney in 2000, long denied doping but was excluded from the 2006 Tour de France over his links to the Operation Puerto drug scandal and doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
He finally came clean in 2013 about his sordid past but by then it was too late. He had become a pariah in German cycling, particularly among the media.
Last month he resigned as sports director of a professional race in Cologne due to negative media reaction, just three days after his appointment.
Editor’s note: This is an updated version of a previously published story.