By Susan Westemeyer
It's been one of those "good news, bad news" sort of weeks for Jan Ullrich, with a healthy helping of the usual confusion thrown in to complicate matters. Various stories out of Switzerland, Spain, and Germany only seem to contradict each other - but that's nothing new.
The good news appeared in the FAZ.net Wednesday, where Lorenz Schläfli, head of Swiss Cycling, said that the federation expected to close its investigation of Ullrich, concerning his involvement in Operación Puerto.
Schläfli noted that the Swiss investigators have waited for months for documents from Spain - documents which apparently they may not use. "We can't do anything about it," he said. "We don't have a chance."
On Thursday, Schläfli told Cyclingnews that Swiss Cycling's dossier on Ullrich "will be turned over to the Disciplinary Committee for Doping Cases in the middle of January. The recommendation to the Committee remains open, but because of the special circumstances, the action will probably be broken off."
This turn of affairs was promptly contradicted by Bernhard Welten, who is handling the Ullrich investigation for the independent Swiss Committee for Doping. He told press service sid that the investigation is continuing, calling Schläfli's statement "a clear misunderstanding." Nothing has changed, Welten said, and to say that the investigation would be closed "is not at all correct, and I alone am responsible for this case."
Welten still expects to receive new documents from Spain and Germany. "I very much hope to receive them by the middle of January, as I have been told by the UCI." But even if he does not receive these additional documents, he will continue on. "I will forward the Ullrich dossier in any case to the disciplinary committee of Swiss Olympic, and with a recommendation."
Welten had previously noted that although the Spanish court had ruled that the documents could not be used, the Swiss view was that this applied only to criminal law. "But we are dealing with civil law," he said, and expected to be able to use the information.
Meanwhile, another portion of bad news came from the Spanish judicial system. As.com reported Thursday that an additional 51 cyclists would be required to appear in court as witness in Operación Puerto, including foreign riders. The article specifically mentions Ullrich, while noting that the riders could testify in courts in their home countries. They would be required to answer questions concerning their relationship with Dr. Fuentes and others associated with the case (see related story).
In Ullrich's homeland, his manager Wolfgang Strohband has been busy again. As eager as Ullrich is to compete again, he won't be participating in the Bremen Six Day race in January. The race organizer had invited him, but, according to the AFP press agency, Strohband said that Ullrich had declined the invitation, noting that "Jan needs a specific time to prepare for a race."
In a short interview with Cyclingnews, Strohband said he couldn't really comment on the FAZ article. "We can't make an official statement at this time because we have nothing in writing to confirm it. It has always been our goal to stay out of this speculation and to present out argument with facts. We want to continue with that."
But the possible end of the Swiss investigation doesn't really change much, he said. "This doesn't change the negotiations that are currently underway. We still assume that Jan will ride next year. To that end, we are continuing our discussions with potential teams and sponsors."
Ullrich needs a license before he can sign with a team, but Strohband sees no rush. "Our time plan sees an application for license at the earliest in the end of January. It is not necessary earlier." And then he needs a team. "We have ongoing contact with the teams," Strohband says. "Right now we are speaking with three different teams, both ProTour and Continental. I can't say any more at this time."
Nor can he say anything over the possibility that Ullrich might have to appear as a witness in the Spanish court case. "We have not heard anything out of Spain, there is nothing more to say."