Former German cycling champion Andreas Klöden admitted on Saturday he is considering retiring after the recent wave of doping scandals have left him in fear he may end up in jail one day.
The 32-year-old, one of the pre-race favourites to win this year's Tour de France, told German daily newspaper Bild he has trouble sleeping and fears criminal elements are creeping into his sport.
"I find it difficult to sleep," said the 2004 German champion, who was excluded from the Tour on Tuesday after his whole Astana team withdrew in the wake of leader Alexandre Vinokourov's failed drugs test. And team-mate Matthias Kessler was suspended by Astana in June for testing positive for testosterone.
"Maybe I will quit completely, I fear that the sport will become criminalised and people will end up in prison," added Klöden. "What will happen if somebody pours something banned into my salad? I would then be tested positive and I'd go to prison. I really do not want that, I have a family. All this doesn't make any sense any more."
The German rider, who was 5th in the Tour's general classification before withdrawing, was at a loss to understand how other cyclists can be involved in doping.
"Vinokourov would have taken drugs by blood transfusion, but he knew he would have been drugs tested. It's like driving at 150 km/h, while you are restricted to 80 and there are speed cameras all around you.
"The same with Matthias Kessler. He had a testosterone level higher than we've ever seen before. And that between two races where he was challenging for victory, and would have known tests were likely. Nobody can be so stupid."
Even more ominously, he raised the possibility of riders' careers being sacrificed in the current dispute between Tour organisers ASO and the International Cycling Union.
"I know it sounds fanciful," he said. "In cycling the UCI and ASO are fighting for the Tour. People are plotting things, everyone is wishing the worst for everyone else.
"A lot of money is at stake. What if some people are manipulating things, ruining things, in order to take control of what's left?"
© AFP 2007