By Susan Westemeyer
Former Telekom soigneur Jef d'Hont, who recently told German magazine Bild am Sonntag that he injected Jan Ullrich with EPO, has now retracted the claim in an interview with Dutch radio station NOS on Monday. When questioned as to who, if anyone, did administer EPO to the 1997 Tour winner, d'Hont did not give a clear answer but said he would reveal more in three weeks upon publication of his book in Germany.
Meanwhile, Ullrich himself continues to remain silent on the matter. "We have nothing to say about the case," said his manager Wolfgang Strohband to Spiegel. "You won't get a denial from me and a press conference isn't planned, either."
German sports lawyer Michael Lehner, who represented Danilo Hondo in his doping trial, told the dpa press agency that Ullrich may be worried about having to repay much of his salary to T-Mobile, should he make any kind of admission to doping. "I don't think that Ullrich is so afraid of the fraud case in Bonn. He could reach an agreement with them and pay a fine," said Lehner. "His main worry is with a possible requirement that he would have to repay money back to T-Mobile. Then he would be broke."
Lehner, who currently represents German anti-doping crusader Werner Franke in a case against Ullrich, urged the retired star to "come out with the truth now," but doesn't believe that will happen. "His advisors will force him to keep quiet," Lehner said.
Former Telekom team manager Walter Godefroot, who d'Hont alleged was behind the doping scheme, has indicated he will soon break his silence on the matter. "My version will come," said the Belgian, who is now an advisor to the Astana team. However, Godefroot denied he would make any direct comment on the d'Hont charges. "I won't say anything to that - there would only be more sensation made out of anything I say."
Godefroot was originally asked by his former T-Mobile rider Alexander Vinokourov to advise the Astana team. At the team's presentation in January, he said that he would help Vinokourov and Andreas Klöden prepare for the Tour and would accompany them there. Now, he is saying that he doesn't know how he will help the team or how long he might be at the Tour. "I haven't been with the team for several weeks," he revealed, "and can't say anything about any special Tour preparations."
Astana team manager Marc Biver described Godefroot as "an honourable person" and said that the team would value his assistance at the Tour de France. "I can't charge him with something as long as I have no evidence," said Biver. "He did his work at that time as well as possible. I am sure of that and I hope that he will be with us at the Tour."
Another former Telekom rider Mario Kummer, who currently serves as a directeur sportif with Astana, has denied any involvement with doping, contrary to reports in German newspaper Neue Züricher Zeitung that he had confessed to Biver. "I have nothing to confess," he told the dpa. "I slipped into the Telekom Tour team in 1996 at the very last minute, and broke my collarbone in a crash on the first stage in Holland. That ended for me the Tour which Riis later won."
"The newspaper misinterpreted me," added Biver.