Katusha suspends Zabel over doping admission

The six-time green jersey winner has worked for the Russian outfit since 2012

MOSCOW (AFP) — Katusha on Tuesday said it has suspended former Tour de France sprint ace Erik Zabel as a coach after he admitted to systematic doping.

“Russian team Katusha announces the suspension of the sprinter group coach Erik Zabel after new facts about doping during his cycling career having been revealed in news reports,” the team said in a statement.

“These revelations refer to Zabel’s career as an active racer from 1996 to 2003 and do not have any connection with team Katusha … management has decided to suspend Erik Zabel, who joined the team in 2012.

“As a member of Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Crédible (MPCC), Katusha follows a strong anti-doping policy.”

The German rider, a six-time winner of the Tour de France green jersey competition for the best sprinter, admitted in a newspaper interview published on Sunday that he doped from 1996 to 2004.

His admission to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung came after he was included in a French senate commission report naming riders who had tested positive for the banned blood booster EPO during the 1998 Tour.

Katusha is managed by Viatcheslav Ekimov, a former U.S. Postal Service rider believed to be under scrutiny in the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s investigation of the that team and Lance Armstrong. The Russian did not serve a doping ban during his career and inherited the 2004 Olympic time trial title following former teammate Tyler Hamilton’s doping admission in 2012.

Zabel, now 43, in 2007 admitted having taken EPO in 1996 but maintained that he stopped using it after one week.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) on Monday announced that Zabel had resigned from his position with the Professional Cycling Council. He also resigned as the sport director for the Vattenfall Cyclassics.

The federation said he had expressed “deep regret for having lied for so long about taking performance enhancing substances” and, although cycling was now cleaner, he was “no longer the right person” to sit on the council.