German former pro cyclist Jan Ullrich, winner of the 1997 Tour de France, says that Lance Armstrong’s seven Tour de France victories should be restored.
Ullrich was Armstrong’s great rival during much of the American’s 1999-2005 run of Tour wins, and came second to him three times.
After the US Anti-Doping Agency found that Armstrong used performance-enhancing drugs through the entire period, he was stripped of all his victories, including his Tour wins.
“If it were up to me, I’d give Armstrong back his victories in the Tour,” Ullrich told German news magazine Bild.
Ullrich pointed out that it would not be the first time a Tour winner has had his title removed then restored. Bjarne Riis - now owner of the Riis Cycling team currently sponsored by Saxo Bank and Tinkoff Bank - had his 1996 victory stripped after he admitted doping, then restored a year later.
Riis and Ullrich were team-mates at the Telekom team at the time, and Ullrich’s support of Riis in that 1996 Tour saw him finish second overall. The following year the roles were reversed as Riis turned super-domestique and supported Ullrich to his only Tour win.
Both riders, most of their team-mates and just about every other significant pro cyclist of the era have since admitted doping.
“Bjarne Riis was given back his victory from 1996. That’s how things were at the time. It’s not helping anyone to have lines struck through the roll of honour.”
Acknowledging the issues of the time, the Tour de France organisers and cycling’s governing body the UCI have not nominated anyone as the winner of the Tours stripped from Armstrong.
Ullrich made it clear he does not want to be considered the winner of the Tours in which he was originally the nominal runner-up.
“I just want the victories that I obtained on the bike. I don’t want to win anything by default.”
Ullrich was one of the riders who came under suspicion in 2006 when Opercion Puerto uncovered the blood doping services provided by Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
In June he admitted being a client of Fuentes.
“But I’d said that already a thousand times. There was nothing new in that,” he said.
When asked why he had not come clean about his use of performance-enhancing drugs before, Ullrich simply said: “I decided differently. In hindsight, perhaps I would have done some things differently. But I am no god that can see everything and do everything right.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.