In what was perhaps the only piece of good news to emerge from Thursday's T-Mobile press conference dominated by emotional doping confessions of former riders, the German telecommunications giant announced it will "honour its sponsorship engagement" within cycling, scheduled to run through 2010. Cyclingnews' Susan Westemeyer reports from Bonn, Germany.
"In the last few days we have heard many explanations," said Christian Frommert, Director of Sponsoring Communications at T-Mobile. "It is not enough to just give an explanation, the world of cycling is not in order."
Following Frommert's assurances, Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag, 'stars' of what has been the most popular cycling documentary in decades, Hell on Wheels, a film that follows the Telekom team in the 2003 Tour de France, described their experiences with EPO throughout the mid-to-late 90s.
"About four of us sat on the curb during one of the Grand Tours," began Aldag, referring to his 1994 season. "We had been totally dropped and couldn't keep up. What could we do? I started thinking about doping and asked around.
"In 1995 I started with EPO before the Tour and just kept on, step by step. I had the feeling that I wouldn't be caught. That made it easier. In 1997 I had a haematocrit of 50. That made me stop and think. It was not fun to get up at 5am and check my blood values and see if I could ride that day. I think my highest blood value was 53."
Aldag then admitted he even had a tattoo made on his upper arm, to hide the bruises resulting from injections of doping products. "In 2002 I ordered EPO through the Internet," he continued. "It was so bad, I never used it. I saw that it was life-threatening. It finally went click in my head.
"I have lied to everyone, and I apologise for that. There was no reason to tell the truth - everyone else was doing it, too. I stayed with that story for a long time."
This spring he finally decided to come clean, and after long discussions with his wife, he spoke to T-Mobile manager Bob Stapleton about his past and offered to quit his current post as Sports Director. "I knew we had to change things, that is why we are here today. I apologise for lying and for doping," he said.
To read Cyclingnews' full report, click here.