By Susan Westemeyer
When Jörg Ludewig was a 22-year-old amateur riding for the Team EC Bayer Worringen and hoping to break in to the pro ranks, he wrote a letter asking about doping products. Now, eight years later, that letter has come back to haunt the T-Mobile rider. On Tuesday the team announced it was investigating the letter. On Wednesday, Ludewig issued a statement concerning it.
"The letter is from me, among others. In 1998 I inquired into medical preparations that could increase my performance. But the note about EPO on the margin is not from me!
I welcome the action being taken by my current team, T-Mobile. They are going about the matter fairly and openly.
The year 1998 was a difficult year for me: I had private problems (including breaking up with my girlfriend) and in addition I had various severe health problems to overcome (such as mononucleosis and a chlamydia infection). There were also persons in my immediate circle whose exaggerated enthusiasm and expectations led to a lot of pressure on me. And my instable health was always denounced.
It had to do with my future and my job. Team Gerolsteiner let me know informally what the consequences would be if I should used forbidden substances: an immediate dismissal and the end of my career! (Ludewig's first pro contract was with Gerolsteiner - ed.)
So I immediately rejected all my intentions and possible "bad deeds"! In addition, a pharmacist told me about all the massive health risks. All of these factors fortunately had a lasting effect on my ethical and moral attitude towards doping. I even cancelled my planned trip to Rhodes. (The Greek island where he planned to buy the illegal substances - ed.)
I repeat, that now, as ever, I distance myself from doping. Since 1992 I have had about 70 blood and urine tests, some unannounced, and all were negative.
My blood values have remained the same. My steps to increase my performance are limited to my alternative medicine practitioner, by SRM supported training plans and altitude training at my own cost.
I am very sorry if it have caused bother to those who looked after me at the Team EC Bayer Worringen, T-Mobile Team, Team Gerolsteiner, my private sponsors, my family and my friends because of my behaviour in the year 1998. I beg forgiveness for mistakes made in my younger years."
T-Mobile Team is continuing to look into the matter. Team communications director Christian Frommert told the Suddeutschen Zeitung, "We have no proof of doping, but this evidence of the intention gives us cause to look into the matter." When asked if the team would fire Ludewig without notice, team spokesman Luuc Eisenga told www.sport1.de, "We would first have to think of the employment rights situation."
Gerolsteiner Team Manager Hans-Michael Holczer didn't mince his words: "I would have fired him immediately and risked the employment rights lawsuit!", he told www.sport1.de. Holczer noted that he gave Ludewig his first pro contract "on the recommendation of Jörg Jaksche. He wanted to have a chance and rode for very little money." Ludewig stayed with the team for only one season.