Jeroen Blijlevens and the Belkin Pro Cycling team have ended their association. The 41-year old sports director was named on Wednesday in the French Senate’s inquiry as one of the riders from the 1998 Tour de France whose doping control samples indicated EPO use. The team’s press officer told Cyclingnews yesterday that they would talk with Blijlevens shortly. Today it was announced they will part ways immediately.
Belkin Pro Cycling’s management regrets that Blijlevens didn’t take the opportunity to confess before the 1st of April. Riders and staff of, then-Blanco, Vacansoleil-DCM and Argos-Shimano had the possiblity to confess to doping and get a six month suspension and loss of three months wages. Blijlevens didn’t use this opportunity and answered the four questions negatively.
The former sprinter wrote an open letter today expaining his decisions in the 1990s and the reason why he kept silent during the 2013 doping inquiry. “It was difficult to admit that you had used doping. And I also took into account what it would mean to me to be without a job for six months.”
The Blanco Pro Cycling Team, formerly Rabobank, was still busy looking for a sponsor in Spring of this year. To Blijlevens this was also a factor to take into account. “The team was looking for a sponsor and it was still unsure if there would be a team in 2014. If I were suspended, it meant I could only do my job for three months in 2013. I decided to start working and prove myself. If there already would have been a sponsor untill 2015 I might have taken another decision."
Blijlevens paints a familiar picture of the professional cycling scene in the 1990s. “I started cycling when I was eight years old. My ultimate goal was to become a professional. I succeeded and in 1995 I was part of the Tour de France. I won a stage but had to abandon because I had lost too much time. In 1996 I won a stage again and made it to Paris but it was one hell of a job.”
He decided to buy the wonder drug called EPO to be competitive. “It was a stupid decision but I was at a crossroads. Take EPO and be a reasonable professional bike rider or not.” Blijlevens stresses he never received EPO from the teams he was part of.
In a meeting between Belkin Pro Cycling’s team management and the sports director today he confessed to using banned substances. The team with core values like transparancy and credibility therefore sees no future for the Dutchman within the team.
“Just like many riders of my time, I would have liked to be a pro bike rider in this era. We are on the right way. Things have really changed,” Blijlevens concludes his letter. “Please have respect for the riders and listen to their voice. In the seven months that I was part of Blanco/Belkin I saw that the rules are strictly applied and a new culture with regards to doping exists nowadays.”