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Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Doctors confirm involvement while working for Telekom team

Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Two doctors with Germany's top cycling team have admitted they gave performance-enhancing drugs to their riders.

Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich released separate statements to the media late Wednesday confirming their involvement with doping in the 1990s while they were working for the Telekom team, later known as T-Mobile.

The admissions came after a former Telekom rider, Bert Dietz, said earlier this week that doctors Schmid and Heinrich introduced him to the blood booster EPO while he rode for the Telekom team in the 1990s.

Christian Henn, another former Telekom rider, also admitted using EPO.

"I admit that, upon request, I made doping substances, especially EPO, available to certain riders since mid-1990s," Schmid said in his statement. He said the doping practices did not involve the T-Mobile team.

He said he never gave any drugs to riders without their knowledge.

Heinrich also confirmed he'd been involved in doping.

"I took part in doping of riders in the course of my work as a sports doctor," he said.

Dietz's admission followed claims by former Telekom massage therapist Jef d'Hont earlier this month that the two doctors gave EPO to some of the team's top riders, including former Tour de France winners Bjarne Riis and Jan Ullrich.

Riis won the Tour in 1996, when Ullrich was runner-up. Ullrich won the world's top race in 1997.

Ullrich retired in February after being implicated in the Spanish doping scandal, but he has denied ever taking performance-enhancing drugs. Riis also has denied doping.

Both doctors, who are employed by the University Clinic in Freiburg, were suspended after d'Hont's claims. Tuesday they were suspended by the team. The two doctors also face a criminal investigation.

Another former Telekom rider, Udo Boelts, came out late Wednesday to admit doping.

"Yes, I have to confirm these allegations," Boelts told the ARD television network late Wednesday.

Boelts said he used EPO and human growth hormone.

The German cycling team Gerolsteiner said earlier Wednesday it will retain Henn as its sporting director despite his confession of doping when he was a rider with Telekom.

Henn is with the team at the Giro d'Italia.

"Since he has been with Gerolsteiner, I have an exemplary impression about him," Gerolsteiner chief Hans-Michael Holczer said.

Should any irregularities surface, Henn could be fired immediately, Holczer said. Henn ended his career in 1999 after testing positive for testosterone.

He and Dietz shook the German cycling world by admitting to using EPO while both were support riders for Telekom stars Riis and Ullrich.

Neither Henn nor Dietz implicated any other riders, although Dietz said they must have been aware of what was going on.

Several other Telekom riders from the 1990s denied any knowledge of doping on the team, and former sporting director of Telekom, Walter Godefroot, also dismissed Dietz's allegations.

"Dietz was paid to say it," Godefroot was quoted as saying in the Berlin Morgenpost newspaper.

"I never led riders to take any illegal substances," he said. Godefroot is now with the Astana team.

Former Telekom riders Steffen Wesemann and Georg Totschnig, speaking in several German newspaper interviews, said they had not been aware of any doping.

"I was with Telekom longer than Dietz and funnily enough no one ever offered me anything," Wesemann told the Morgenpost.

Dietz, who rode for the Telekom team between 1994 and 1998, said he was introduced to the use of the blood booster EPO by Schmid and Heinrich.

According to d'Hont, the two doctors gave EPO to Riis, Ullrich and other riders, and the substance was supplied by the University of Freiburg clinic, which is also used by Germany's Olympic teams.

D'Hont worked for the team from 1992-96.

T-Mobile said it was ending its partnership with the Freiburg clinic at the end of the season. The clinic provides health care to its riders.