After being mysteriously absent from the start of the Tour de France in Corsica, Saxo-Tinkoff team owner and manager Bjarne Riis was seen at the start of stage three in Ajaccio and was immediately pursued by the Danish media.
Riis revealed that the Anti-Doping Denmark has begin an investigation into his past in the sport and possibly his links with Tyler Hamilton, Jan Ullrich and Laurent Jalabert, who have all become embroiled in doping scandals. He said he did not travel to the Corsica for the Grand Depart because he was on a cycling holiday with his children.
Riis won the 1996 Tour de France but in 2007 he confessed he used EPO and other doping products to boost his performance during his career. He has managed a successful team since 1999 but his incumbent past has raised the question if should remain in control of a major professional team.
"People have a right to say what they want and even say I shouldn't be in the sport anymore. But I think I've done a lot for cycling in the last few years," he told Cyclingnews.
"I think I have the right to be here at the Tour de France. I've done a lot for cycling and I still want to continue doing that. Of course it's been difficult for me because I don’t want to put pressure on the team and take the focus off what has to be done in the next three weeks. Hopefully we can win this Tour de France."
Riis insisted he was not worried about the outcome of the investigation by Anti-Doping Denmark.
"They're looking into past events in Danish cycling. I respect it and we'll see what happens. I'm not concerned about it," he said with a typical Riis-esque shrug of the shoulders followed by a long silence.
Cyclingnews understands, however, that Riis is making changes to the team's management structure to safeguard against problems in case he is banned from being actively involved in running the team.
Riis has confessed to his own doping as a rider but remains tight-lipped about what he did with Ivan Basso, Jalabert and Hamilton. For some reason they have all been protective of their former team manager and mentor.
Riis dismissed suggestions that he perhaps has to do more to help cycling clean up its act if he wants to earn the right to remain in the sport.
"I want to do good things for cycling and I think I have the right philosophy. I'm willing to do that for the good future of cycling. That's why I'm here," he concluded before jumping in the Saxo-Tinkoff team car.
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and Cycling Weekly, among other publications.
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