Pantani, Ullrich Unveiled As EPO Cheats By French Drugs Commission

by Frédéric BOURIGAULT

PARIS, France, July 24, 2013 (AFP) – Italian Marco Pantani and Germany’s
Jan Ullrich both used the banned blood-booster erythropoetin (EPO) during the
1998 Tour de France, a damning French parliamentary commission report said

Pantani, who died of a cocaine overdose in 2004, won the controversial 1998
race, with Ullrich taking second place.

The findings, which serve as concrete proof of cycling’s dark past,
identified a host of other EPO cheats, including top sprinters Erik Zabel of
Germany and Italian Mario Cipollini.

Others to be named and shamed on Wednesday were Italians Andrea Tafi,
Nicolas Minali, Fabio Sacchi, Spanish world champion Abraham Olano and his
compatriots Marcos Serrano and Manuel Beltran, German Jens Heppner and Dutch
rider Jeroen Blijlevens.

A trio of French riders were also found to have doped with EPO in the 1998
Tour – Laurent Jalabert, Jacky Durand and Laurent Desbiens, the commission’s
report revealed.

Denmark’s Bo Hamburger and American Kevin Livingstone also resorted to the
performance enhancer in 1998 and 1999.

The report tells of a time when EPO was the illegal fuel propelling the
peloton – no reliable test for the banned substance became available until

The commission, though, found no hard evidence that American Bobby Julich,
who was third, also used EPO, as Le Monde newspaper had reported Tuesday.

The French senators claim that doping is “a persistent
problem…throughout the history of sport. where the presence of a code of
silence is a complex factor”.

Among their proposals to combat drug taking are the setting up of a “truth
and reconciliation” commission, beefing up the power of the French anti-doping
aqency, handing over dope testing to national agencies rather than each
sport’s international federation, and improved sharing of information between
the different agencies involved in combating doping.

Wednesday’s findings were based on comparisons made of retrospective
testing results from 2004 and a list of samples from the 1998 Tour de France
and the 1999 race won by disgraced US rider Lance Armstrong.

The commission compared the results from the anonymous samples from 2004 to
named samples taken from the two Tours under scrutiny.

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour wins and banned from cycling for
life last year for doping in a scandal that plunged cycling into crisis about
the extent of substance abuse among the peloton.

In May, Jalabert was identified as a doper and he immediately stepped down
as a television and radio pundit for this year’s Tour that was won last Sunday
by British rider Chris Froome.

Since then, there has been debate in France about the utility of naming
names, with the family of Pantani saying they were against identifying riders.

The professional cyclists’ union the CPA last Friday said that it, too, was
opposed to publication.

“Publication of a list amounts… to an accusation of doping without any
means of defence,” the union said, arguing that no counter-analysis was
possible as the original samples no longer existed.

Pantani, who won both the Tour of Italy and Tour de France in 1998, never
tested positive throughout his career, although he was expelled from the 1999
Giro due to irregular blood levels.

Ullrich for his part held his hands up to doping in June.

The commission questioned 84 witnesses under oath, from sportsmen and women
to organizers and anti-doping experts, to “lift the lid” on and “break the
code of silence” over the subject.

Cycling, with its doping-scarred past, has not been the only focus,
however, with attention also paid in particular to rugby.

The French anti-doping agency assessed that the sport was the most affected
by doping in relation to its testing, while football and tennis were also

France football coach Didier Deschamps was questioned behind closed doors
while tennis came under the scanner for its relative lack of testing at an
international level.

The senators are aiming to frame legislation on sport and put it before
parliament for debate next year.