At 9:34am on Friday morning, T-Mobile announced that it has suspended Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage in the wake of the Operacion Puerto affair. The three were implicated in the doping scandal as being clients of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes. None of them will take part in the Tour de France.
As the announcement was made, the three sat in the team bus on their way to what was supposed to be a "meet-and-greet" press conference. They were informed on the way.
Team spokesman Stefan Wagner said that the team had received documents from the ASO which made it "impossible" for the team to further work with the three. Wagner also confirmed that the team would take two of its reserve riders and would ride the Tour: Lorenzo Bernucci (Ita) and Stephan Schreck (Ger).
"We have only now gotten the evidence," said Wagner. "As soon as there were suspicions, we asked to see the files. We don't know why we didn't get them until today. The facts in the case contradict Ullrich's claims of innocence so strongly that we had to take this step, in order to follow our goal of a clean sport."
"Our stance was always unequivocal," said T-Mobile's spokesman Christian Frommert, in a statement. "If we are presented with evidence, which leads us to doubt the credibility of one or other of our riders, then we act upon it immediately. That is the case now."
Team manager Olaf Ludwig was also deeply disappointed. "We talked to the riders several times and even have their declarations of innocence in written form." Following the first reports emanating from Spain about the possible involvement of T-Mobile Team riders in the Madrid-based doping scandal, the team management instructed all its athletes to sign a written declaration certifying that they were not involved in the scandal, which everybody did. "There are clear guidelines arranged with the riders, which leave no room for interpretation. This was also clear to Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla and Rudy Pevenage," added Ludwig.
Against this background, the sponsor as well as the team management repeatedly questioned the riders and the sporting director. "At first we had no reason to doubt the riders' statements. Therefore, we couldn’t make any decision merely based on speculations, rumours and guesses," said Frommert. But the situation has now changed. "Accordingly, we will now live up to our responsibility towards making cycling a clean sport."
Although it hasn't yet been established that Ullrich and Sevilla doped, it has been proven that they had contact with the doctor, which they lied about to T-Mobile.
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