By VeloNews Interactive wire services, Copyright AFP2002
In a Frankfurt news conference Saturday Jan Ullrich admitted that he had taken recreational drugs on a night out with friends last month because he was depressed a knee operation had not resolved a long standing injury.
The 28-year-old Tour de France and Olympic champion said this was why he tested positive for amphetamines in an out of competition test on June 12 while he was recuperating at a Bavarian clinic after the operation.
However the two-time world time-trial champion could face criminal charges over his taking of the drugs as the Munich prosecutors office has opened a judicial inquiry into his revelations.
Ullrich, who risks a ban of up to a year, added he would not ask for his B sample to be tested.
“That means I accept the positive result from the A sample,” he told a press conference.
Ullrich, a four-time runner-up in the Tour de France, said he accepted total responsibility for his “idiotic” actions.
“It was an incredibly idiotic thing to do, which is inexcusable and I take full responsibility,” the East German-born rider admitted. However Ullrich said he had decided to paint the town red because he was depressed as he had felt no tangible signs the knee had improved since the operation.
“It is understandable that one wants to escape the four walls of the clinic… I was going stir crazy,” he said.
Ullrich, though, insisted he had never taken anything that would improve his performance.
“This is not doping,” he said. “I have never taken any banned substances that could improve my performance.”
Ullrich’s version was supported by the clinic’s doctor Hubert Horterer, who was also present at the press conference. “This is not a case of doping just simply one of human failing,” he said.
However Horterer held out little room for optimism that his knee injury would ever be totally cured.
“A 100 percent cure is not possible. I really don’t see him training on a bicycle before the end of the year,” he said. “But I do think Jan Ullrich will be able to return to the circuit and put up some great performances one day.” Telekom’s team spokesman Olaf Ludwig, whose exploits for the East German Olympic team in the 80’s and then in the Tour de France inspired Ullrich to take up the sport, said he was very disappointed.
“I do not consider this to be a doping case,” he said. “What performance can be improved when the athlete in question is undergoing recuperation treatment. I am however deeply disappointed and concerned. His behaviour is extremely hard to excuse, though it is understandable from a human point of view.”
Jürgen Kindervater, director of communication at Telekom, said that Ullrich would not be fired by the team immediately.
“He first has to pull himself together and we will decide what happens afterwards,” he said.
For Telekom boss Walter Godefroot Ullrich only had one option if he was to come out of his personal slump. “Ullrich is at his lowest ebb, he can only get out of it by the proper means,” he said.
Ullrich, who in previous years had been criticized for piling on the pounds in the close season because of an over fondness for cream cakes, claimed it was the first time he had taken recreational drugs.
“I have been out many times and had a few drinks,” he said. “However, I have never taken pills before. This was the one and only time I have done this.”
Ullrich explained he had gone out with his friends to the ‘Pacha’ night club in Munich.
“I had a fair bit to drink,” he said. “Then a guy who I didn’t know gave me the pills assuring me that they were to cure depression. At that precise moment I did not even reflect on the fact I was in the middle of doing something stupid or bad. The next day the drug testers were at the clinic.”
However he refuted thoughts he might retire from the sport in which he has provided the only real resistance to American rider Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France.
“I don’t see why this should stick,” he said. “I am going to carry on my preparations to come back. My priority is to return. Now that I am at my lowest ebb I want to return to the highest peak.”
However he will face an anxious wait as to the consequences of his night out on the town as Sylvia Schenk, president of the German Cycling Federation (BDR), revealed she had sent the file with his explanation to the Federal Sports Tribunal, who will then decide what action to take.
Ullrich had already paid a price for his depression over the tendonitis in his knee when in May he was convicted of drunk-driving incident which cost him two-and-a-half months’ wages and his driver’s license. Jan Ullrich factfile:
Date of birth: Dec 2 1973
Birthplace: Rostock (formerly East Germany)
Weight: 73 kg
Team: Telekom (since September 1994)
World ranking: 6thMajor titles
Olympics – 1st road race 2000, silver medallisttime-trial 2000
World championships – 1st time-trial (1999 and2001), 1st amateur road race
(1993), 3rd time-trial (1994)
German championships – 1st in 1997 and 2001, time-trial1995
HEW-Classic 1997, Luk-Buhl 1997, Tourof Berlin 1998, Nuremberg Grand Prix
1998, Coppa Agostoni 2000, Tour of Emilia 2001, DortmundClassic 2001
Tour de France – won in 1997 (2nd in 1996, 1998,2000 and 2001) winner of
six stages, wore yellow jersey for 18 days.
Tour of Spain – winner in 1999 (also won two stages)
Tour of Regio – 1996