By Susan Westemeyer
Rudy Pevenage has indicated that Jan Ullrich may have been using doping products when he won the Tour de France in 1997. Focus magazine reported Monday that in a secretly-taped conversation between ex-Team Telekom soigneur Jef d'Hont and Ullrich mentor Pevenage, the former noted Ullrich came to the team as a good rider and did what the others did.
"Yes, and he won the Tour with it too, didn't he?" said Pevenage, which the magazine interpreted as meaning that Ullrich used EPO (Erythropoietin) to help him win the Tour.
According to the magazine, a meeting at d'Hont's house on March 16 of this year, Pevenage admitted to having advised Ullrich and others on blood doping. He said, about "30 to 40 percent" of the riders were informed of the practice, but later they all knew about it. "You gave up a half-litre of blood three weeks before. And it is well-stored. Good, you feel a little weak for the first two or three days, but then you start to recover... You feel a lot better and then at that point you get back that extra half-litre," Pevenage described the process.
Even Lance Armstrong's name came up in the conversation. "I don't understand why Jan could never beat the other one [Armstrong - ed.]," Pevenage said, and wondered about his blood values. "One day someone told me the American is unbelievable. He starts the Tour with a hematocrit value of 46 and at the end his still has 46. How can he do that?" questioned Pevenage. "With blood doping," suggested d'Hont.
The article pointed to evidence uncovered by Belgian authorities during a search of Pevenage's house last year that he and Ullrich were clients of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. The investigators allegedly found travel documents for "several" short trips to Madrid.
One of those trips may have occurred during the Giro d'Italia 2006. German doping experts Angel Alonso and Werner Franke, and Franke's attorney, Michael Lehner, have all given sworn statements saying that chief Spanish investigator Enrique Gomez Bastida told them of a visit by Ullrich to Fuentes in the spring of 2006, the magazine reported. According to their statements, "As to the question whether Ullrich was in Spain this year, Herr Gomez Bastida answered yes. Herr Gomez Bastida gave the date of May 10, 2006." That was a rest day during the Giro, when the peloton travelled from Belgium to Italy Eight days later Ullrich won the time trial in Pontedera.
Ullrich has repeatedly denied knowing Fuentes or having used doping products.