Stefan Schumacher has admitted to having “made mistakes” in the past, but now says that he wants to win back the sympathy and trust he has lost. By riding and winning clean, the Miche-Guerciotti rider also hopes to do his part to restore German cycling.
“The situation of cycling in Germany right now is certainly not easy. A lot has gone wrong the last few years and also I have made mistakes,” Schumacher told Cyclingnews. “Looking back, I could surely have done this or that differently.”
Schumacher won both time trial stages at the 2008 Tour de France whilst riding for Team Gerolsteiner. He signed with Quick Step for the following season but in October 2008 it was announced that he had tested positive for EPO-CERA when blood samples from the Tour were re-tested. He later also tested positive for EPO-CERA at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The German rider was suspended for two years, although he continued to deny the charges. He started riding again last August with the small Italian Miche team.
“As to what must change, I can only speak for myself: through transparency and openness I will endeavour to win back the trust and sympathy which I have lost,” Schumacher claimed. “I want to win and to show that I am doing it cleanly.”
“I hope that this way I can do my part to help the sport, even though I know that I can't do much. There are still many enthusiastic cycling fans in Germany – and they have the right to a great sport.”
Returning to racing after sitting out for two years is not easy, but “I know what I can do,” he said. “I must work my way back – bit by bit, kilometre by kilometre. But I am very satisfied with the developments of the last few months, the tendency is right. And I am sure that athletically, I still have my best years ahead of me.”
Schumacher is now 29 but is willing to work his way back slowly but surely. “My goal is to ride the big races again – whether it is in a ProTeam or in another team with a good racing calendar.
“But the focus right now is on the current season. Every race counts and and every race is important for me. In Miche I have a Continental team with a good race calendar with attractive and challenging races. I want to use that.”
And does he want to ride the Tour de France again? “Sure, why not?” he replied bluntly.
Schumacher signed with Miche in August 2010 and rode several races in September and October. That decision “was absolutely right. That way I could get back into the racing rhythm and get my first racing experience.”
That made things easier for him when the 2011 season started. So far this season he has ridden a number of races. “I am totally satisfied with my form at this point in the season, even if the really good results haven't come yet.”
That is more due to bad luck than anything else, Schumacher told Cyclingnews. “In the two stage races I had punctures in the final stages which literally cost me a top overall result. That is irritating but on the other hand, it gives me the confidence that I can be at the front when everything works out. “
Schumacher has a long history of talking his way out of controversial situations. A positive test for cathine in 2005 was excused when he proved that he was not told it was illegal.
After finishing third in the 2007 World Championships in his hometown of Stuttgart, it was disclosed that he had “irregular blood values” shortly before the race. This was due to a nasty case of diarrhoea, he said, backing up his claim with an array of numbers, statistics and medical studies.
He was once again cleared, but the public become sceptical about is honesty. He was then caught for drink driving after celebrating his bronze medal Several months later it was disclosed that he had also tested positive for amphetamines – luckily for him, not illegal when used out of competition.