Jan Ullrich has confessed to blood doping with the aid of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes but claimed that he only doped in order to compete on a level playing field with his rivals. The German was speaking in an interview with the magazine Focus, which is due to be published in full on Monday.
“Yes, I availed of Fuentes' treatments," Ullrich told Focus. "Almost everyone at the time was taking performance-enhancing substances. I didn’t take anything that was not taken by the others. It would only have been cheating for me if I had gotten an advantage which was not the case. I just wanted to ensure I had an equal opportunity.”
Ullrich was prevented from riding the 2006 Tour de France when his news of his relationship with Fuentes first broke on the eve of the race as part of the Operacion Puerto blood doping investigation. Although Ullrich would never race again, his two-year ban and the suspension of all results from May 2005 were not confirmed until a Court of Arbitration for Sport ruling in February of last year.
After the CAS verdict, Ullrich belatedly acknowledged that he had been a client of Fuentes but refused to expand on the nature of his dealings with the Spanish doctor, who was convicted of endangering public health by a Madrid court in April of this year. Ullrich’s historic rival Lance Armstrong confessed to doping in January of this year after being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Ullrich, who won the Tour in 1997, finished second to Armstrong on three occasions.
Ullrich wondered if the American had been protected by the UCI during his career. “I always knew that Lance Armstrong wouldn’t get away with it, even if he was probably protected for years by some other institution and the world governing body,” he said. “I'm not any better than Armstrong but no worse either. The great heroes of the past are today people with flaws and we have to cope with them.”