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Friday, July 21, 2006
T-Mobile fires former Tour champ Ullrich

Assocaited Press

BERLIN -- Former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich was fired by his T-Mobile team Friday, several weeks after he was linked to a Spanish doctor charged with doping.

Ullrich was forced out of this year's Tour on the eve of the race. He had been considered a leading contender.

Ullrich, who won the Tour in 1997 and was runner-up five times, was pulled out of the race after Spanish media reports said his name turned up on a list of 56 cyclists who had contact with the doctor.

T-Mobile said it also immediately terminated the contract of Spanish rider Oscar Sevilla, who was also pulled from the Tour and suspended by the team. T-Mobile said both Ullrich and Sevilla failed to provide evidence of their innocence within a deadline set by the team.

"Since Jan Ullrich and Oscar Sevilla did not offer proof of their innocence, termination was the necessary and consistent step following their suspension," team manager Olaf Ludwig said in a statement released by the team.

"Sport, in particular cycling, has committed itself to ethical and moral rules of its own that also are documented in the riders' contracts," said T-Mobile spokesman Christian Frommert.

Ullrich has denied allegations of doping. On Monday, Ullrich said his lawyers have asked Spanish officials for written clarification of the accusations and whether they will lead to charges.

A statement posted on the rider's Web site Friday said that T-Mobile terminated his contract the day before. Manager Wolfgang Strohband said Ullrich's dismissal was "unfounded" and said the rider would appeal, unless a deal is reached with the team in a meeting planned for next week.

"The termination by T-Mobile is not acceptable to me," Ullrich said in Friday's statement. "I am very disappointed that this decision was not communicated to me personally but only by fax by the T-Mobile lawyers.

"I find it shameful that, after so many years of good cooperation and after all I have done for the team, I am being treated as a fax number," he said.

Ullrich's contract was to expire at the end of this year.

Ullrich, Sevilla and team sporting director Rudy Pevenage were suspended on the eve of the Tour. T-Mobile fired Pevenage in early July after concluding he had contact with Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the center of the Spanish doping investigation.

Athletes allegedly went to Fuentes' Madrid clinic to have blood extracted for doping or to collect performance-enhancing drugs.

Nearly 100 bags of frozen blood and equipment for treating blood were found at the clinic, along with documents on doping procedures performed on cyclists.