Former Dopers Lose Jobs
Four riders appeared on the list of 1998 positives
At least four former professional cyclists are out of a job after their names surfaced on a list of EPO positives from the 1998 Tour de France released Wednesday. While the French Senate report promised no rider would face disciplinary action from the testing, the result has been a bit different.
The first athlete to lose his job was Laurent Jalabert, who retired at the end of the 2002 season to work as a pundit for two French television stations. As news leaked ahead of the Tour about his inclusion on the list, he stepped down from both of those roles.
In addition to Jalabert, the sport director of newly minted Belkin Pro Cycling, Jeroen Blijlevens, has left the squad. “The reason for this decision is Jeroen Blijlevens’ admission of doping made today during a meeting with management following the publication of the French Senate’s report,” the team’s statement said.
Blijlevens won four Tour stages between 1995 and 1998 and signed a document earlier this year stating he had never doped. In an open letter, he explained his decision to dope. “Our team was looking for a new sponsor. I decided to use EPO for the first time during the Tour in 1997.”
The technical director of the Vuelta a Espana and former winner of the race Abraham Olano was also released from his job Thursday. “I am very hurt,” he told the Spanish daily AS. “I understand that ASO [the owner of the Tour de France and a stakeholder int he Vuelta] is a large part French, because if not, I wouldn’t be able to understand any of this. I have to study my case with my lawyers … but the damage is done, and it would be hard to go back.”
The latest rider to face repercussions over the 1998 testing is Stuart O’Grady, who retired this year after the Tour de France. His name appeared on the suspicious list from the race, leading him to admit to doping that year. The Australian Olympic committee terminated O’Grady’s membership in the body after he refused to voluntarily resign. The body went on to state that he will not be remembered as a “fantastic competitor” but as an “athlete who succumbed to the temptation of drugs in sport just to get an edge on some of his fellow riders.”