By Katharina Schulz
T-Mobile directeur sportif and former Team Telekom rider Rolf Aldag has commented on the serious allegations raised by ex-soigneur Jef D'Hont. In his book, Wielerverzorger, D'Hont claims that there was systematic doping in the Telekom Team during the Tour de France in 1996, which was won by Bjarne Riis with the help of Jan Ullrich and Rolf Aldag.
Rolf Aldag, however, states that he didn't and doesn't know about any such doping system. "In order for me to notice anything there would have had to be something for me to notice in the first place. There are some concrete allegations, and we have to take a close look at these. On my own behalf, I can say I didn't notice anything. Even today, twelve years later, I cannot say that there was something suspicious," Aldag told fr-online.de.
Aldag also said it was impossible to judge by appearance alone whether someone was using banned substances. D'Hont claimed that during the 1996 Tour de France, Bjarne Riis was doped so much that it showed, whereas Aldag said that even though everyone can see how the riders' bodies change under the strains of the mountain stages, one cannot tell from this whether they doped themselves or not. "D'Hont is seeing things very simply. If you could really tell whether someone was doping or not just by looking at them, there would be no need for us to do all those tests," Aldag continued.
It is not only the riders that have now come under attack, but also Team Telekom doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich and the University Clinic in Freiburg, Germany. "Those are serious allegations that should not be taken lightly. In the book, a lot of situations are described and a lot of people are being named. We can talk to these people and try to find out what's true."
"There is no doubt that T-Mobile will react if something went wrong. But it won't be today and it won't be tomorrow. The clinic's reputation has been seriously damaged, and I'm sure they have a vital interest in not letting the accusations go uncommented but to shed light on the matter. This is also in our interest," stated Aldag.
Asked whether he agreed with D'Hont's impression that cycling showed the same structures as the mafia, where only the omerta, the law of silence, keeps the system running, Aldag pointed out that he doesn't consider it silence not to comment on every single rumour. "Yet cycling definitely has a lot to reappraise."
Cycling needs to take care of the doping problem if the sport wants to regain credibility. "Of course cycling has a problem with its image. We all need to be more transparent. This season, T-Mobile stands for clean sports with its fight against doping and a renewed medical programme and training routine."
The new transparency also includes that T-Mobile are willing to take all of their 29 riders to Madrid for a DNA sample, if it should be necessary. Aldag thinks "everyone should take this step, for it is a very important step."
T-Mobile to investigate d'Hont charges
The T-Mobile team will investigate charges that two of its team doctors who supplied team members with EPO in 1996, as alleged by former soigneur Jef d'Hont.
In a book published this week, d'Hont claimed that doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich injected team members with EPO during the 1996 Tour de France, which was won by Bjarne Riis for Team Telekom, as it was then called.
"We are going to ask the two doctors questions and to discuss with them to know what is true in what Mr d'Hont has alleged. We are going to look into the matter and then make a decision," T-Mobile spokesman Christian Frommert told the AFP press agency. "We are also going to try to speak with Mister d'Hont."
Frommert noted that the Freiburg University Clinic has announced that it will also investigate the charges against its two doctors. "I am pleased with the Freiburg initiative. I would advise team doctors Heinrich and Schmid to hold themselves back and consult with their lawyers and families," he said, according to the dpa.