Figureheads within the cycling fraternity have had mixed reactions to Team CSC owner and manager Bjarne Riis' revelations that he doped while riding for Team Telekom during the 90s. The former cyclist turned team manager confessed to using substances, including EPO, from 1993 through to 1998, during which he took a number of wins including the 1996 Tour de France.
While some were encouraged by Riis' admissions, French sport newspaper L'Equipe was direct in its evaluation of the situation, with journalist Pier Bergonzi, one of Italy's most renowned cycling journalists, questioning the sport's ability to move on while figures like Riis remained. In an article titled 'Riis: which future after the admission?' Bergonzi said that: "nobody believes that Riis wouldn't know anything about Basso's link with Fuentes. It's clear that the reconstruction [of cycling] cannot start from people who don't have a hint of credibility anymore."
American cycling legend Greg LeMond on the other hand was encouraged by Riis coming forward, some 11 years after his Tour de France win. The three time Tour winner, who testified at Floyd Landis' arbitration hearing two weeks ago, encouraged others to follow the lead of the recent spate of riders admitting to using performance enhancing drugs.
"I never thought that I would see this," LeMond told the Los Angeles Times. "The decision that Riis made is the right one and I hope that other riders will follow."
Meanwhile Team CSC rider Carlos Sastre has issued a release in support of his boss, stating that the current generation of cyclists within his team owe Riis a lot.
"I have total faith in Bjarne, and he has all my support," said Sastre. "He has made mistakes in the past, but since then he has fought hard to show the younger riders coming through the values of determination, training and sacrifice.
"It's a difficult time for Bjarne right now," continued Saste's statement, "but I want to say that despite what other people might believe, this team owes a lot to him."
A decision from ASO regarding Team CSC's participation at the 2007 Tour de France is expected soon. The organisation is deliberating the issue as it seeks more information on Riis and the doping topic.
"Is this someone who should be leading a cycling team? He was the manager of Ivan Basso last year when Basso was in contact with Fuentes. Is there a link?," ASO's Christian Prudhomme said to AFP.
"I would like to have the answers to these questions," added the Frenchman. "People have to speak out. We have to pull together to save this wonderful sport."
Riis' decision to come clean at a press conference held at CSC headquaters in Lyngby, Denmark on Friday followed on from similar admissions from fellow Team Telekom riders Erik Zabel and Rolf Aldag. A tearful Zabel appeared at the T-Mobile press conference last Thursday with his former teammate to confess to using the banned blood booster EPO while riding for the Team Telekom in the 1990s.
Jean-François Quénet, Monika Prell and Greg Johnson contributing.