Thomas Dekker has shed further light on the doping culture that existed at Rabobank during his spell at the team from 2004 to 2008. The Dutchman, who previously served a two-year ban for testing positive for EPO, has now confessed to also undergoing blood transfusions during his time at Rabobank.
“It was easy to be influenced, doping was widespread,” Dekker told NRC Handelsblad, saying that he began using EPO in 2006.
In May of last year, former Rabobank manager Theo De Rooy already admitted that doping was tolerated on the team until 2007 and the Dutch bank withdrew from sponsorship at the end of the 2012 season. The team continues under the guise of Blanco Pro Cycling in 2013, albeit without a title sponsor and with alterations to its management structure.
Dekker, who now rides for Garmin-Sharp after returning from suspension in late 2011, said that doping was simply an endemic part of the culture in the Rabobank set-up of the time.
“They should have told me to be patient and to stay clear of doping, but that wasn’t the case,” he said. “There was no dissenting voice. Doping was a way of life and a way of riding for many teammates, colleagues and me, too. Doping was part of the job – it’s hard, you train hard and you do everything for the bike.”
As well as using EPO, Dekker explained that a member of the team’s management had put him in contact with “a man who carried out blood transfusions,” and he said he received transfusions on three occasions.
“I thought it was the way to success, all the big riders were doing it,” Dekker said. “I received a blood bag three times. With doping, you can have everything, but in fact you’re left with nothing afterwards.”
As well as Dekker’s confession, the NRC Handelsblad report includes information from an unnamed former Rabobank rider, who says that EPO was first used by a majority of the team’s riders at the 1996 Tour de France.
Late last year, NRL also claimed that Michael Boogerd, Denis Menchov and Michael Rasmussen had also undergone blood doping while at Rabobank, and reported that Dr. Geert Leinders - who later worked for Sky - had been named by Levi Leipheimer in his testimony to USADA and had assisted the American in his doping.