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.”
Our official grumpy Northerner, John has been riding bikes for over 30 years since discovering as an uncoordinated teen that a sport could be fun if it didn't require you to catch a ball or get in the way of a hulking prop forward.
Road touring was followed by mountain biking and a career racing in the mud that was as brief as it was unsuccessful.
Somewhere along the line came the discovery that he could string a few words together, followed by the even more remarkable discovery that people were mug enough to pay for this rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work. He's pretty certain he's worked for even more bike publications than Mat Brett.
The inevitable 30-something MAMIL transition saw him shift to skinny tyres and these days he lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.