By Andrew Hood
Jan Ullrich might be retired, but his legal troubles seem far from over. On Thursday, German prosecutors revealed that the 1997 Tour de France champion transferred 25,000 euros (about $35,000) to controversial Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes for his services in 2004. They’re also following leads of a similar bank transfer in 2006. According to Jorg Schindler, a spokesman for the Bonn prosecutor’s office, the payment was made from a bank account in Geneva, Switzerland, in early 2004 for what they believe was for doping services. “We have tests that reveal Fuentes stored Ullrich’s blood and we have confirmed of at least one payment between Fuentes and Ullrich,” Schindler was quoted in the German wires. “Now we have to extract certain conclusions. This latest information gives us a step forward.” German prosecutors in Bonn are investigating links between Ullrich and Fuentes, the alleged ringleader of a major blood-doping ring that was the focus of the Spanish police investigation last year dubbed Operación Puerto. Ullrich could face charges for fraud if prosecutors push forward with their case. Earlier this year, DNA tests matched Ullrich to more than four liters of blood stored in pouches inside refrigerators confiscated during police raids on apartments used by Fuentes. Ullrich retired in February and continues to deny he worked with Fuentes. Ullrich has been under the gun since his T-Mobile team fired him a day before the start of the 2006 Tour after information released by Spanish authorities linked him to Fuentes. Initially, more than 60 riders were linked to Fuentes. Since then, several riders have been cleared of allegations for a lack of proof while others have been forced into retirement or banished to smaller teams after their names have been stained by the Puerto scandal. Other riders, such as Ivan Basso, Michele Scarponi and Jörg Jaksche, have publicly admitted they worked with Fuentes. Several members of the former Telekom team, including the 1996 Tour winner Bjarne Riis, sprinter Erik Zabel, current sport director Rolf Aldag and Christian Henn, admitted to taking performance-enhancing products during different parts of their respective careers. Ullrich raced on Telekom from 1995-2002, but has not joined the avalanche of doping admissions and continues to protest his innocence. There was no immediate response from Ullrich on Thursday.