Former Rabobank rider Danny Nelissen has confessed to using EPO while riding for the team. His admission follows reports in the Dutch media on Saturday alleging that Rabobank began an organised doping programme ahead of the 1996 Tour de France.
Nelissen confirmed that a doping system was implemented after the Rabobank had endured a low-key start to the 1996 season, the first year that the Dutch bank had served as sponsor of the team, then managed by Jan Raas.
“We were ridiculed, humiliated,” Nelissen told RTL Nieuws. “We had to do something.”
Nelissen claimed that he had EPO administered by the team doctor. “I used EPO at Rabobank at the Tour de France in 1996 and 1997,” he said. “I had it administered by team doctor Geert Leinders.”
Leinders worked on a part-time basis for Team Sky in 2011 and 2012, but was released by the team at the end of last season, before it unveiled its new “zero-tolerance” anti-doping policy.
While Nelissen said that he never had to purchase EPO himself as it was “issued by the team,” he claimed that he did not see any other riders being injected with the substance. “You did it alone, with the team doctor,” he said.
Nelissen had won the world amateur championships in 1995, but insisted that he had not doped to take the title in Duitama, Colombia. The Dutchman had previously been a professional for five seasons, riding for PDM and TVM, but interrupted his professional career for a season due to a heart condition.
Nelissen, who retired in 1999 and now works for Eurosport, said that the pressure of supporting a family had influenced his decision to dope. “I had no qualifications,” he said. “I was afraid that I would not be able to support my wife and children. That persuaded me.”
Rabobank announced its withdrawal from sponsoring the team in October 2012 after 17 seasons in the peloton.