On June 18, 2006, five years ago today, Jan Ullrich stormed across the finish line of the Tour de Suisse's closing time trial to win the stage and take a come-from-behind race win. That victory confirmed the form he had shown in winning the Giro d'Italia's time trial the month before, and put the T-Mobile rider squarely in the favourite's position to win the Tour de France.
But it turned out to be Ullrich's last professional race.
During the Giro, Manolo Saiz of Liberty Seguros was arrested and Operacion Puerto burst onto the scene. From the first, Ullrich was rumoured as client of Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes, but the German denied any involvement. He continued to ride and prepare for the Tour, for which he was the heavy favourite in the absence of the retired Lance Armstrong.
But the case didn't go away, and by the start of the week before the Tour, race organiser ASO asked Saiz' team, then called Astana-Würth, to withdraw from the event. Ullrich was being linked more and more to the doping ring, and didn't have to wait long before he, too, became persona non grata.
At 9:34 am on the Friday before the Grand Départ, T-Mobile announced that it was suspending Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and directeur sportif Rudy Pevenage from the team. The management said that it had received documents from ASO which made it “impossible” for the squad to continue to work with these three.
That was the inglorious end of Ullrich's career, one that contained many unfulfilled expectations and disappointments. A golden future had once been predicted for the engaging young German, after he finished second overall the first time he rode the Tour, in 1996, and won it the next year at the age of 23, but he was never able to repeat his success. The emergence of Lance Armstrong, weight and lifestyle difficulties, as well as motivational problems always kept him from achieving more.
Retirement and further investigations
T-Mobile officially fired Ullrich later in July, and various investigations continued. In fact, his house in Switzerland was searched that autumn while he was on his honeymoon, and he eventually traveled back to Germany to give a DNA sample.
Ullrich officially announced his retirement the end of February 2007. In April of that year, his DNA was used to match blood found at Fuentes' headquarters to him.
Shortly after the Tour, Swiss Cycling opened an investigation of Ullrich's alleged drug use or relationship to Fuentes. The investigation took a torturous course, closing and reopening, but was mainly noticeable for absolutely nothing happening.
In July 2009, Swiss Olympic, which handles doping cases in the country, announced that it was officially opening an investigation. But again, it came to a standstill. Until February 10, 2010, when they announced that since Ullrich had quit his membership in the national federation in 2006, they had no jurisdiction over him, thus closing the investigation.
But far from ending matters, the case continued, as both the International Cycling Union and the World Anti-Doping Agency appealed that decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The appeals were filed at the end of March 2010.
And in the 15 months since then – nothing has happened.
“The UCI appealed to the CAS, and we are still waiting for a hearing to be set (or maybe for a written decision with regard to some procedural issues raised in relations to this case),” UCI spokesman Enrico Carpani told Cyclingnews. “So presently I can't say more on this.”
Marco Steiner of Antidoping Schweiz confirmed. “The case is still pending. There have been no hearings so far.”
Neither Ullrich nor his manager Wolfgang Strohband responded to Cyclingnews' requests for a comment.