By Susan Westemeyer
Revelations of systematic doping within Team Telekom (now T-Mobile) during the 1990s continued on Tuesday with a new confession and suspensions of the team doctors involved.
Christian Henn, a Telekom rider from 1995 to 1999 and now a directeur sportif with Gerolsteiner, echoed the confession of former team-mate Bert Dietz. "I was involved, too," he told Cologne newspaper Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger. "That's how it was at the time, otherwise you just couldn't keep up."
Henn retired after testing positive for testosterone which he attributed to an Italian herbal remedy he was using to help increase his fertility. Following his retirement, Henn said it became clear that "if I ever get another job in cycling, then only without doping."
Despite the admission, Gerolsteiner team manger Hans-Michael Holczer said Henn would not lose his job with the team. "There are two possibilities: I can either keep Christian Henn on, or I can suspend or fire him," Holczer told netzeitung.de. "The latter would support the 'cartel of silence', as they say, and that is something that we don't want. We stand for a new era in cycling, for a new basis, and Christian Henn has done outstanding work towards that in the last years. I assume that he will stay with us."
Gerolsteiner's sponsorship contract runs through the 2008 season, but according to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, the firm is already considering either ending the contract early or not extending it, because of the ongoing doping problems associated with cycling.
T-Mobile and University Clinic end association
The T-Mobile Team has officially ended its working relationship with the Freiburg University Clinic following Bart Dietz's allegations on German TV that clinic doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich gave EPO shots to Telekom riders in the mid-1990s.
Christian Frommert, director of sports communications at T-Mobile, said Tuesday morning that the clinic would no longer be responsible for the team's medical care.
The clinic issued a press release Tuesday afternoon announcing it had suspended both doctors until the situation was explained. "The University of Freiburg also assumes that Telekom will also appoint an investigatory committee, so that the charges raised by Mr. Dietz against the Telekom cycling team can be cleared up as soon as possible," read the press release.
"As long as the charges against the cycling team and its environment have not been explained, there is no more basis for a trust-filled cooperation between the University Clinic and Telekom. Therefore the University Clinic is withdrawing its three remaining doctors from the team, effective immediately."
T-Mobile to reconsider sponsorship
Meanwhile, only days after telling Cyclingnews that T-Mobile was committed to its sponsorship of cycling until the end of 2010, Frommert told spiegel.de on Tuesday that "right now the question doesn't arise but we will address the question and can't give a guarantee for eternity." The firm will "come to a very clear decision" within the next few days as to whether to honour its sponsorship contract.
One thing that the sponsor and the team will have to consider is the position of directeur sportif Rolf Aldag, who rode for Telekom from 1993 to 2005 and has claimed to know nothing about doping within the team. "We will hold intensive talks with Rolf in the next few days," Frommert told Süddeutsche Zeitung, adding "Of course we know that Rolf Aldag is also involved."
The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that Aldag has been considering for several weeks whether he should make a complete confession about his past, and had allegedly considered whether his former room mate Erik Zabel should participate.
Various names in the German cycling scene have commented on the Dietz confession and its implications for the individuals involved, T-Mobile, and German cycling in general. Jörg Jaksche, who rode for Team Telekom between 1999 and 2000 and is currently suspended from his Tinkoff team because of possible involvement in Operacion Puerto, said Dietz "sounded honest and made it clear, that we are the weakest link in the chain. Riders are being fired or suspended, while others continue to take their seat in the team cars."
IOC vice-president Thomas Bach of Germany called Dietz's words "a brave step that we hope will send a signal". Bach is also president of the German Olympic Committee (DOSB), and said that the DSOB would not work with the Freiburg Clinic again unless the charges are "quickly and thoroughly cleared up, and it was clear that the clinic had not been involved in the doping case".
Rudolf Scharping, head of the German cycling federation (BDR) said: "The BDR is sure that the sponsor of the cycling team, the prosecuting attorneys, and the investigation committee of the Freiburg Clinic will provide a consequent and quick explanation of the facts, without any reservations."