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Saturday, June 30, 2007
Jaksche says doctor in Puerto probe assisted his doping

Associated Press

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Joerg Jaksche has become the first rider to admit using blood doping prepared by a Spanish doctor in the Operation Puerto scandal.

Jaksche told Germany's Spiegel magazine that he used performance-enhancing drugs since 1997, while riding for a number of teams.

"I believe it's important for the future of the sport that someone comes out and says, 'OK, this is how it happens here,''' Jaksche told Spiegel. The magazine released the text of its article in advance to other news media Saturday.

Jaksche, a German who lives in Austria, was suspended by his team -- Tinkoff Credit Systems -- in May for suspected involvement in Operation Puerto.

The 30-year-old rider said he would make himself available as a witness to WADA, the UCI and to justice officials.

Jaksche said he began using blood doping prepared by the Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in 2005. He confirmed that his blood was stored under the code name "Bella'' as Nr. 20 in Fuentes' lab.

The scandal broke in May 2006 when Spanish authorities seized about 100 bags of frozen blood in the Madrid offices of Fuentes. The investigation implicated 58 cyclists and led to five arrests, but a judge ruled that Spain's doping laws couldn't be applied retroactively and threw out the case.

However, the International Cycling Union has continued to pursue the matter and recently received 1,000 pages of files from the investigation. It expects another 5,000 pages within the next few weeks.

Jaksche's confession comes after a recent spate of doping admissions from several former top riders for Telekom in the 1990s, including 1996 Tour de France winner Bjarne Riis.

During his career, Jaksche also rode for Polti, Team Telekom, Once, CSC and Liberty Seguros and he told Spiegel that doping was either actively conducted by the team leadership or tolerated.

"Of course, no one held my arm for the injection, but team leaders, who got rich off you in the past, who supplied the things, they are now pretending to push for a clean sport,'' Jaksche told Spiegel.

Jaksche said he first took the blood booster EPO before the 1997 Tour of Switzerland.

"That was my crash course,'' Jaksche said. "A team assistant injected me with EPO in my room. The logic is you adjust your performance level to the rest, because everyone is doing it. In cycling, you live in a parallel world.''

Jaksche won the Paris-Nice race in 2004.