By Andrew Hood
Some of the bags of plasma and blood confiscated during police raids on the offices of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes belong to 1997 Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich, German authorities said Tuesday.
Bonn prosecutor Friedrich Apostel says there is “no doubt” that the blood in those bags came from Ullrich, the German wire service SID reported Tuesday.
Ullrich denied any links to Fuentes, alleged to be the mastermind of a blood-doping ring uncovered last May by Spanish authorities and later dubbed Operación Puerto. Fuentes allegedly used the code names “Hijo de Rudicio,” “Jan,” and “N.1” to identify the German star.
DNA tests confirmed that bags labeled as “Jan” and “N.1” belonged to the now-retired German star, Apostel said.
Apostel said that he expects charges to be filed “relatively soon” now that the blood has been directly tied to the former T-Mobile star. Bonn prosecutors acquired saliva samples from the five-time Tour runner-up and cross-checked them against evidence gathered in the police raids.
Ullrich and his former coach Rudy Pevenage could both be charged under the provisions of a German law regulating medical procedures, although Apostel cautioned he was not certain as to precisely when charges may be filed, since he is reviewing additional evidence in the case.
In the absence of anti-doping legislation in Germany the court in Bonn is examining a fraud complaint brought against Ullrich by Britta Bannenberg, a criminology specialist at the University of Bielefeld and herself a former athlete, AFP reported.
Ullrich’s lawyer, Johann Schwenn, rejected the latest findings as “rigged.”
“We’re awaiting documents from the police investigation, but it’s highly likely that once again this is manipulation like we saw in the inquiry by the Spanish justice and documents collected by the Union Cycliste International,” Schween said in a statement on Ullrich’s personal web page. “As a result there is no reason to change our line of defense.” Ullrich retired from cycling on February 26, denying he ever used doping products during his professional career.
“Today I’m ending my career as a professional cyclist,” said Ullrich during a press conference in Hamburg.
“I never once cheated as a cyclist. I still don’t understand why I was not allowed to compete in the Tour last year. My life as a cyclist collapsed that day. I’ve been painted as a criminal while I’ve done nothing wrong.”
Ullrich, 33, was one of nine riders kicked out ahead of last year’s Tour for alleged links to the Puerto investigation. T-Mobile later sacked their team leader as well as sport director Rudy Pevenage and team manager Olaf Ludwig.
American Bob Stapleton has since joined the German ProTour team and introduced a strict anti-doping code within the squad.
Last May, Spanish authorities uncovered what they alleged was a major blood-doping ring involving 58 cyclists, though names of track and field athletes, tennis and soccer players were also said to have been found among seized documents. Raids netted nearly 100 bags of plasma and blood as well as other banned performance-enhancing substances such as EPO, human growth hormones and testosterone. Five people were arrested, including Fuentes, Spanish hematologist Jose Luis Merino, former Liberty Seguros manager Manolo Saiz and two others. A Spanish judge last month closed legal proceedings because he said prosecutors couldn’t prove that anyone broke existing laws. The judge said there was no evidence that Fuentes and Merino were “endangering public health,” the only charges they were facing. A new stricter anti-doping law — which makes it illegal to administer, procure and accept doping treatments of performance-enhancing products — wasn’t signed into law until February and couldn’t be applied to the Puerto case, the judge ruled.
—Agence France Presse contributed to this report