By Susan Westemeyer
Jan Ullrich decided to retire in February 2007 because "nothing has changed," he is said to have told his mentor and former directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage. Pevenage in turn told this and more to Jef d'Hont, a former Team Telekom soigneur, d'Hont claims in the German news magazine Focus.
d'Hont presented the magazine with CD-ROMs containing secretly recorded telephone calls and meetings with Pevenage. The former soigneur has said that he is preparing to write a second book concerning doping in cycling and will specifically name Ullrich.
Asked by the magazine to confirm the quotes they are running from from the recordings, Pevenage gave a number of different responses. Pevenage's attorney said that Pevenage confirmed that "there were conversations between him and Mr. d'Hont," but denied the content of those conversations as reported.
In the recordings, Pevenage allegedly said that he visited Ullrich during a training session on Mallorca in February of this year. Ullrich then said that he was there with former teammates Andreas Klöden and Matthias Kessler, both of whom rode for Team Astana. Ullrich is said to have told Pevenage that he wanted to end his career because he didn't want "to take any more risks." Ullrich added that he was at the same hotel as his former teammates, "and I tell you, they were all there, the most important of them are still using the same stuff, EPO and all of that. Nothing has changed."
Pevenage also is quoted as discussing the 2006 Giro d'Italia saying that before the Giro he told Ullrich "as long as we are in Belgium, you can still ask me for something." Once the race arrived in Italy, "he started to ride well. He told me, call him [Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes - ed. note]." Pevenage resisted, but the rider insisted. "Come on, call him, take care of it." In the end, Pevenage did call on his mobile phone – Ullrich won the time trial on May 18, to the surprise of many and that same evening the Guardia Civil listened in a telephone conversation between Fuentes and a person identified only as "Rudicio," who they assumed to be Pevenage. According to d'Hont, Pevenage told him that he regretted using his mobile phone to have made the call. "Yeah, shit, man. They caught me. I know that that was dumb."
Does Pevenage have evidence against half the peloton?
After the news of Operación Puerto broke later in May, "I thought that something could happen with Jan, that he could be on the list. But I never thought that I would be on it too," Pevenage said.
d'Hont claimed that he wanted Pevenage to confirm his stories for the book that he was writing. "When I start to talk," Pevenage is said to have told d'Hont, "then I would nail half the peloton to the wall. But should I do that? Yeah, sure Zabel and all these guys, yeah, I took care of them too. You know what I mean.... A lot of them have a big mouth now, but actually they should be wetting their pants."
Pevenage was worried about what might happen if he had to testify at some point. "Just imagine that I had to testify and the judge asked, did Jan Ullrich ever take EPO? What should I say?" Simply confirm it, d'Hont told him. Then he would have to "say goodbye to Jan throw him to the wolves," which he didn't want to do. "They would hang him in Germany."
According to the magazine, former team manager Walter Godefroot was also involved in the team's doping programme. The drugs were supplied by the doctors from the Freiburg University Clinic, which sent the bills to Godefroot. He also took the cash from the riders to pay those bills, Pevenage said. "He stuck the money in his pocket and settled up with Freiburg, well, with [former team doctor] Andreas Schmid and the others." When contacted by the magazine, Godefroot's response was "no comment."
Pevenage continued to say that panic broke out at the Clinic after Operación Puerto was announced and Ullrich was prevented from starting the Tour de France. "I know that a number of bills from the pharmacy were gotten rid of." When asked who dealt with the pharmacy, he answered, "Schmid."
Will Pevenage come out against the former riders he says he aided in doping?
In another conversation, Pevenage is reported to have said, "I have stress. The Germans want evidence. They have blood samples, and found some things by him [Ullrich] and me, mobile phones and so on."
D'Hont warned Pevenage about what might happen if Ullrich decided to confess. "What can I do, we are bound together," Pevenage replied. "You will pay and he will be free," d'Hont answered. "They will see him as a victim and find you guilty, because you did everything for him."
Should he "give up on Jan?", asked Pevenage. "Or they will hang you," was the answer. "One or the other of those two options."
D'Hont had been looking for written confirmation from Pevenage, but never received it. In a last telephone conversation, Pevenage said he couldn't do it. "Jef, I tell you, I am in deep shit."
Ullrich announced his retirement the end of February, at a "theatrical" press conference, at which he attacked the press and continued to proclaim his innocence. "Jan has always said that he never used doping," Pevenage said. "It would have been better if he hadn't said that," responded d'Hont. Pevenage: "No, he shouldn't have said that," adding that now they would "go after him. He attacked the press much too much."
Cyclingnews requested comments on this story from Ullrich's manager and his spokesman, but received no reply.