Tinkoff-Saxo team manager Bjarne Riis has told Cyclingnews he was happy to talk to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) and has said it is now up to UCI President Brian Cookson to step up and prove he is a good president by following up on the recommendations CIRC made in its report published on Monday.
The CIRC reported quoted the Interim Report of the 2009 Freiburg investigation into doping at the Team Telekom/T-Mobile team, which revealed that “Riis'preparation included taking 4,000 units of EPO every second day during the Tour and two units of HGH. As a result, his haematocrit values were at least 60% and as high as 64%."
In 2007 Riis admitted that he doped between 1993 to 1998 and when he won the 1996 Tour de France. He is awaiting the outcome of an investigation by Anti-Doping Denmark into accusations by several riders that he helped them dope when he was team manager. He has always denied those accusations, but Anti-Doping Denmark has still to publish its conclusion on the case despite it beginning in 2013. Christina Friis Johansen of Anti-Doping Denmark was also interviewed by the CIRC Commission
"I was very happy to talk to them to be honest, it was very constructive, I liked it a lot," Riis told Cyclingnews, preferring not to say what he told CIRC.
"It was done in a very good way, it wasn't personal attack. I liked their attitude. It's not a secret that there has been doping in cycling. I think what is important is how we look at things now and in the future. What I like about the report is that there are some suggests for the future."
Like former rider David Millar, Riis was critical of the part of the CIRC report that revealed that one rider who testified felt that even today, 90% of the peloton was doping, and then added that another rider put the figure at 20%.
"I think everybody would ask if it's realistic to say that (figure)," Riis said. "I don't think that is a right number and realistic to say that. I don't know if it was quoted in the right way. I heard that it was said that the percentage was between 20-90%. What does that mean?"
Fit and proper person?
Brian Cookson called on Riis to speak to the CIRC investigators last summer and is pushing for some kind of "fit and proper person" rule that would decide if former dopers like Riis are allowed to work in professional cycling.
"What I want to try to do is find ways in which we can reassure people that the people who are involved in the sport, who may have had a history, have renounced that and have given a commitment to work with us in a way that respects the rules, and is clean," Cookson told the Guardian newspaper. "You have to have some possibility for redemption in any judicial system. It's unrealistic to say we have to wipe out those people for ever and ever."
Riis denied that the CIRC report and possible new rules introduced by the UCI could be a problem for his role as team manager at Tinkoff-Saxo.
"I don’t think so," he said. "To be honest I think everybody (now) has the same interests for the future of the sport."
Riis called for Cookson and the UCI to step up and take control of the sport.
"I really think that the UCI can be the leaders of the sport instead of just doing politics. That’s my opinion," he said. "I think he (Cookson) has to prove that he’s a good president. I’ve met him but that doesn’t mean I know how he works. After this (CIRC), he has to show he can do it."
One more season with Alberto
Riis seemed genuinely happy that Alberto Contador has extended his contact with the Tinkoff-Saxo team until the end of 2016, revealing that the Spaniard only wanted a one-year deal. The Tinkoff-Saxo team announced the news just before the Tirreno-Adriatico pre-race press conference.
"That is what he wanted to do," Riis said, refusing to confirm that Contador will then end his career in 2016.
"Ask him about that…. Of course I’d have preferred that it’s a three-year deal or something but I’m just happy to see him staying."
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Stephen is the most experienced member of the Cyclingnews team, having reported on professional cycling since 1994. He has been Head of News at Cyclingnews since 2022, before which he held the position of European editor since 2012 and previously worked for Reuters, Shift Active Media, and CyclingWeekly, among other publications.