Erik zabel is already digging. With ex-giro winner ryder hesjedal’s questionable doping confession far from criminal territory, the next north american winner of a rough cycling tour has been convicted of sports fraud.
However, the sincerity of the canadian is in serious doubt. Hesjedal wants to have doped only in 2003. So he probably doesn’t have to fear any consequences due to the eight-year statute of limitations. Cycling canada immediately spoke out in favor of an amnesty in the case of its crude billboard.
He was "open and honest" about his past, hesjedal stressed in his published statement about doping offences in 2003, when he was still a mountain biker. "I have loved and lived this sport. But more than a decade ago I chose the wrong path," said hesjedal, who in 2012 became the only canadian to win the tour of italy. "Even though the mistake was more than a decade ago, it doesn’t change the fact that I made it and lived with it."
Doping only in 2003? But hesjedal’s career only really took off after 2003. In 2004 and 2005, he rode alongside, of all people, top cheater lance armstrong in the american discovery channel team, where extensive doping had long been proven under controversial team boss johan bruyneel. And hesjedal’s 2006 employer, the swiss phonak team, was anything but synonymous with clean cycling. Low point after a series of doping traps in the team was the case of floyd landis, who was convicted of cheating a few days after winning the 2006 tour of france.
Ex-professional cyclist jorg jaksche is not the only one to wonder. "Natural ryder. You are outside the penalty zone and tomorrow jonathan vaughters will solve the hunger problem," the former doping crown witness tweeted. Vaughters is team manager of the garmin team and has been preaching an anti-doping policy for years. However, he had to admit in 2012 to have doped himself during his active time. A number of his current riders (david zabriskie, christian vande velde and tom danielson) also confessed to doping practices in the wake of the armstrong case.
Hesjedal’s confession inevitably brings back memories of zabel’s first mini-confession in 2007. At the time, the german top sprinter tranenreich admitted to having tried EPO doping in 1996. The statute of limitations also applied to zabel. In contrast to jan ullrich, the former telekom star was allowed to continue winning. In the summer of this year, however, zabel had to strongly modify his confession after the french senate had found further positive doping samples of zabel during investigations of the tour de france 1998.
In the case of hesjedal, the confessed doping scientist michael rasmussen was also allowed to help the canadian come out of the closet. Dane, who was taken out of the race as a yellow jersey wearer in the 2007 tour de france, has incriminated several riders and officials in his biography "yellow fever," which will be published next monday. In 2003, he allegedly instructed hesjedal and his canadian compatriots seamus mcgrath and chris sheppard in doping practices with the blood doping substance EPO. Some time ago, rasmussen had already assured the anti-doping agencies of his cooperation and announced that he would come clean. Hesjedal’s team, however, stressed that the canadian had already testified truthfully and comprehensively last year when he was contacted by the doping agencies.