â€œI used doping. I used EPO. It was my own choice. â€œ said Bjarne Riis today at a press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. The winner of Tour de France 1996 has previously claimed that he won the Tour de France without using illegal substances. Today he changed that explanation.
Doping confessions from Team Telekom
It is not a big surprise for me that Bjarne Riis decides to explain about his past now. Since the former soigneur at the Telekom Team, Jef dâ€™Hont, published his book about doping abuse, there has been an increasing pressure on the successful riders from the German team. This week Udo BÃ¶lts, Christian Henn, Rolf Aldag, Erik Zabel and Brian Holm have confessed abuse of EPO in the Tour de France 1996, confessions that made it even more difficult for Bjarne Riis to neglect what really happened when he won the race.
Bjarne Riis introduced cycling as a sport in Denmark
Itâ€™s a sad day for cycling enthusiasts from all over the World, and especially for Danish cycling fans. Bjarne Riis was the rider that introduced cycling to most of the riders I train, and Bjarne Riis has actually been riding in my local cycling club when he was 8 years old. It was a dream to watch him win the Tour de France back in 1996 and I guess most people in Denmark remember that summer as something special. But it was an illusion that he won without illegal substances and I guess that most people are convinced that professional cyclists used EPO in the 90â€™s. There were probably clean people in the peloton, but I guess they were a minority at that time.
You can ride, but you canâ€™t hide
After Bjarne Riisâ€™ victory journalists started to have a closer look on what happened behind the scene. A journalist from Danish television worked undercover as soigneur on an Italian team, Gewiss Ballan. He found out that Bjarne Riis was medicated with EPO when he was on the Gewiss Ballan team in 1995. Riisâ€™ relationship to Dr. Cecchini has been the topic in a lot of media the last 11 years. Why was he using a doctor as coach and why was he having the same coach as several of his competitors had? It is not strange that people got curios.
Bjarne Riis started as director on the CSC team back in 2000 and since then there have been several episodes that didnâ€™t improve his reputation as a clean rider. Remember the Tyler Hamilton case and the Ivan Basso case. These things all point in one direction: Bjarne Riis was doped back in the 90â€™s and he has used his successful experiences from that time to improve his team captains on Team CSC.
Now with the confessions from almost all his team mates, the Telekom doctors and the riders he worked so close with at the Team CSC, Riis finally found out that it was time to confess. I guess it was one of his hardest decisions ever, but probably a decision that will make life easier for him in the future.
I really hope that all riders that have been cheating themselves, their families, friends and all their cycling fans will confess. Remember: You can ride, but you canâ€™t hide. Someday people will find out if you cheated them.
It is uncertain who will be the next rider to confess.Â