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Marcel Kittel (Project 1T4i)
Sprinter tells Cyclingnews "it was like a nightmare"
On Sunday the German broadcaster ARD aired a show that shed light Dr. Franke, who worked at an Olympic training site in Erfurt. The show named Kittel as a patient of the doctor and two current teammates later admitted that they attended the clinic.
However, Kittel and his teammates had not broken the WADA code, which only banned the treatment in 2011. Additionally, Kittel and his teammates are not under investigation.
Until now Kittel has remained tight-lipped while his team have been active in dealing with the media. On Monday afternoon they issued a press release in which they confirmed Kittel's use of the treatment, however they stressed that none of their riders were involved in the investigation but that they would follow cooperate with authorities.
Kittel meanwhile travelled to France on Monday and despite the turbulent few days, is scheduled to race on Wednesday.
"It's not easy to describe what's happened to me in the last couple of days. For me there's one thing that's happened to me as a rider and then there's what happened to me as a person because I'm not just a rider, I'm also a human being," he told Cyclingnews.
He watched the report on Sunday night and described the emotions he felt when he name appeared in front of the nation, and linked to possible doping.
"After I saw that report on German television I was really sad and really disappointed. It was like a nightmare and the hardest day in my life. It's not easy to handle this now but I'm really happy that I have my friends, my family and my team around me because they gave me a lot of support."
"I saw it on the screen. It was an unbelievably strange feeling and when you see your name. That's really hard and difficult to describe if you've not experienced it."
In 2007 and 2008 Kittel was advised to visit the clinic. He told Cyclingnews that he regularly used the venue – as many athletes did – for training, sports massage and medical needs but that he put his entire trust and faith in the medical staff that worked with him.
"I was 18 and there was never a doubt that I could be doing something wrong," he told Cyclingnews.
"I did my training there and I was coached there. I also went to that doctor. I was told if I was ill or sick to go to him and I did that. He gave me some advice and then said we could do the UV treatment. Of course it sounds strange but in that moment I trusted him. I did it a few times and I asked him, is this doping and he replied, no it is not. Then I did it a few times more and then in 2008 I stop using it. That's what happened."
"Of course I can understand when the report was wrong that people start talking about blood transfusions and I can imagine that it's a really bad impression."
Before yesterday's news Team 1t4i – formerly known as Skil-Shimano – had positioned themselves with a strong anti-doping stance, welcoming a number of anti-doping measures and making transparency and ethics cornerstone to their progression in the sport.
Their reaction and support of Kittel, coupled with their own move to break the news that another two of their riders visited the same doctor, reaffirmed that.
"When I came to the team I'd never thought anti-doping would play such a big role but they way they've supported me, their philosophy , how they develop young riders, it's a beautiful thing and I feel absolutely, comfortable, especially with the context of the last few days and the accusations I've faced. I support the team's anti-doping philosophy 120 per cent and everyone in the team knows it," Kittel said.
Kittel is set to start Etoile de Bessèges and the rider is looking forward to competing, admitting that it will be a welcome distraction.
"For me as a person, it has been unbelievably hard and I'm just happy I have my people around me."
"I hope I can sleep well. The way the team has reacted to the story has given me a lot of confidence. But I was named in the case and because of that my name will always be connected to it. I know I did nothing wrong, my family know, my friends and my teammates know and that's the most important thing to me."