By Susan Westemeyer
The T-Mobile Team has called a press conference for Thursday mid-day, at which Sport Director Rolf Aldag is expected to confess to having used doping products while riding for the team in the mid-1990s. Team manager Bob Stapleton flew back Wednesday from Italy to Germany to prepare for the ordeal, and indicated that Aldag would not be fired.
"I think that Rolf is very committed and very much supports what we are doing now," Stapleton told the Süddeutsche Zeitung. "He simply had a moment of weakness and now we have to see that we all come out of it and continue on with him."
"Of course we had a few personal things to talk about between ourselves," he continued. "But everything that he has done has convinced me and was practically perfect. He hasn't made any mistakes in his current activity as Sport Director." However, Stapleton noted, "he should of course have been more open about his past, that's clear. But it is my plan to continue working with Rolf. He is still the best choice for the position, and he is still capable of doing the job."
Stapleton admitted that Aldag was now more or less forced to come clean. "But I know that in the past two weeks, he has seriously thought about disclosing things. He wanted to do it and was looking for a way to express himself fully and understandably. And it is very difficult to do that and still work in the cycling world. ... Naturally he should have done it earlier, and he could continue now to do nothing. But that he is doing it now speaks well for him, because it will be hard for him. And it is a very delicate thing, to speak about something like this without involving other people. That is what was most difficult for him: There are deep friendships and long-term relationships, and if you want to continue in this business, then it is difficult to do right by everybody."
T-Mobile has two other directeur sportifs who also rode for the team in the 1990s, Brian Holm and Jan Schaffrath. "Brian has already admitted that he doped in the past, he has even written a book about it," Stapleton said. "And as to Schaffi, I can only say, that his behavior now is a model to the team."
Looking to the future of cycling, he concluded, "Some people surely have a big problem and don't intend to change anything. Others want to change things or themselves, and there is a lot of support from other athletes and managers for our new way. But there are some absolute enemies of the system, and they won't change because they are afraid to lose their jobs. My hope for the present situation is that this is a chance for a complete new beginning for cycling."
More riders and others involved with Team Telekom in the 1990s have given their reactions to the current charges and situation, the Berlin Morganpost reports, all denying that organized doping ever took place.
Steffen Wesemann, with Telekom/T-Mobile from 1993 to 2006, and now with Team Wiesenhof, said "I rode for Telekom longer than Bert Dietz did, but funnily enough, nobody ever offered me anything. What I don't understand is that these people always speak out at a lucrative time, like now so soon before the Tour when they've been plagued by a guilty conscience for ten years. And first they earn money with cycling and then admit to doping and earn money for that."
Former team manager Walter Godefroot, now with Team Astana, said, "Dietz was paid to say that. If Erik Zabel said something like that, it would be a different matter. I have never made my riders take illegal medications. I can tell you the names of 20 people who can swear that I have never recommended illegal medications."
Brian Holm, who rode for the team from 1993 to 1997, and is now a directeur sportif for the team, said "There was no systematic doping at Telekom. I don't know whether the riders took something or not. I didn't know that Bert Dietz who is a good guy took EPO. I was never offered anything by our doctors. Our team manager at the time, Walter Godefroot, never spoke to me about drugs."
Jens Heppner, currently Sport Director at Team Wiesenhof, told the dpa press agency, "I cannot confirm Bert Dietz' statements, they seem to me to be partly lies. ... If he doped, then that is his problem."