I've nothing to hide, insists Tour hopeful Klöden

Tour de France hopeful Andreas Klöden said Wednesday that he was weary of trying to clear his name as other members of his Astana team are suspected of doping.

Tour de France hopeful Andreas Klöden said Wednesday that he was weary of trying to clear his name as other members of his Astana team are suspected of doping.

"I have nothing to confess," Klöden told German daily Die Welt. "You have to believe me when I say that I have never done anything illegal."

Klöden on Wednesday signed the International Cycling Union's (UCI) commitment to clean cycling, but admitted that it was half-heartedly. "I didn't have a choice in order to compete in the Tour de France ... but I felt violated by this procedure.

"I no longer enjoy competing in the Tour de France: it's like a suspended sentence," said Klöden who warned that he could quit this year's race if the doping issue became too heavy. I don't feel like talking about doping after the stages while my job on the bike is already hard enough as it is."

The 32-year-old German, who was second during the 2004 edition of the Tour and third last year, stressed that it was hard work that has made him one of the best riders in the world and denied ever taking drugs during his spells at Telekom/T-mobile nor with his present team.

"Since I was eleven, I was always the best in my age category, I worked really hard, I did not become a good rider overnight. I continually progressed, step by step, without resorting to drugs and despite all that I'm still subject to suspicion, I'm pigeonholed with all the cheaters and it is annoying."

Klöden's teammates Eddy Mazzoleni of Italy and German Matthias Kessler are currently under the cloud of doping claims. Mazzoleni has subsequently been dropped from the nine-man Tour de France team.

"Concerning Mazzoleni, the facts date back to before he joined Astana, in 2004 when he was riding for Saeco, whereas Kessler shows an abnormal level of testosterone that even an anti-doping specialist like Werner Franke finds beyond understanding," added Klöden.

Names still missing from Tour's anti-doping charter

Five of the 21 teams participating in the Tour de France, which begins here Saturday, have yet to sign a landmark anti-doping charter which guarantees their entry to the July 7-29 race. So far 16 teams have signed the declaration, however the entire teams of CSC, Quick Step and Rabobank have yet to sign.

Russian Vladimir Gusev, of Discovery Channel, and Italian Paolo Savoldelli, of Astana, have also not signed.

In a bid for a clean Tour, and to simultaneously weed out anyone linked to the ongoing Operacion Puerto doping affair in Spain, the International Cycling Union (UCI) has asked all Tour riders to sign an anti-doping charter and provide a DNA sample. The charter also stipulates that riders must also lodge a year's salary, which will be forfeited if they are convicted of any doping charges.

Tour de France organisers have also promised to deny entry to any rider who fails to sign the charter.

© AFP 2007

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