Jan Ullrich's former directeur sportif and mentor Rudy Pévenage has revealed that he organised trips for the German rider to visit Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes in Spain, confirming, for the first time, his involvement with the blood doping scheme unearthed in Operación Puerto.
"I organised Jan Ullrich's trips to Madrid to see Dr. Fuentes. What's the point in continuing to lie," he told French newspaper L'Equipe in a long interview published on Thursday.
"I want to make it clear that at the time, I never had the feeling that I was doing anything wrong. I knew a lot of Fuentes clients, including some good riders who rode the Tour in 2006. Everyone knew. It was a normal thing to do."
Pévenage revealed that he was caught up in the Operación Puerto investigation after mistakenly using his personal mobile telephone to call Fuentes from the 2006 Giro d'Italia.
"I used to communicate with Fuentes using a pre-paid unknown number. But at the 2006 Giro, I wanted to call him after Jan had won the stage. I didn't have any credit left and so I used my personal phone. Fuentes' phone was being tapped and so they got my number."
Pévenage was subsequently sacked by the T-Mobile team and Ullrich was stopped from starting the 2006 Tour d France in Strasbourg.
Pévenage first hinted of his knowledge of Fuentes' operations in Madrid in 2007, but refused to name the clients involved in the doping ring. In 2008, he revealed that Ullrich had meetings with Fuentes, but insisted they were only for training plans.
Ullrich has always denied doping during his career. He won the Tour de France in 1997 but was always beaten after that, first by Marco Pantani in 1998 and then by Lance Armstrong. He retired in 2006 following the Operación Puerto scandal and has promised to one day reveal what he did during his career. He has so far kept silent.
Pévenage claims Ullrich decided to work with Fuentes because he was under huge pressure to try and beat Armstrong.
"The rivalry pushed us to give it everything to try and beat him," Pévenage told L'Equipe. "With all the money he earned, Jan could not afford to be beaten. He was stressed out by the pressure and even put on weight because of that. Stress poisoned his career."