Zabel will hand back 1996 green jersey

Tour de France sprint great Erik Zabel of Germany said he is ready to hand back the first of the six consecutive jerseys he won in 1996. Zabel recently confessed to using the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) for a brief spell in his career in 1996.

Tour de France sprint great Erik Zabel of Germany said he is ready to hand back the first of the six consecutive jerseys he won in 1996. Zabel recently confessed to using the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin) for a brief spell in his career in 1996.

Race organisers said Friday that Zabel, who is competing here at the Tour with the Milram team, would be stripped of the 1996 prize for the race's prestigious points competition. Organisers said the decision had not yet been taken into account on the race's official documentation, for the likely reason the books had already been sent to the printers before the revelations were made.

"We haven't included it in the documents for this edition (of the race) for technical reasons," Patrice Clerc, the president of the Tour's parent company ASO (Amaury Sport Organisation), told AFP.

The German said after Friday's stage: "After my confession I knew that handing my 1996 green jersey back would be on the agenda. "I was ready to bring it with me to London (which hosted the start of the race), but I didn't. But if the organisers want, I will ask my wife to bring it to Paris for the end of the race."

Zabel is considered one of the true greats of the sport. As well as dominating the points competitions of many stage races he has also won 12 stages on the Tour de France, and a number of big one-day classics.

Organisers will also leave a blank next to the year 1996, where the name of the race winner should be. Denmark's Bjarne Riis, Zabel's former Telekom teammate, recently admitted he used EPO throughout his career.

Despite the decisions on Riis and Zabel, Clerc said there would be no widespread review of results from the 1990s, when EPO is believed to have been rife in the peloton.

"I've heard it said we should review a lot of the results from the 1990s. But for us to do that, you would have to start doing it in all sports," added Clerc. "The Olympic Games, the football World Cup, the world athletics and swimming championships ... Who honestly believes that it is only cyclists who have had access to this performance enhancer (EPO)?

A detection test for EPO - which boosts performances by enriching the oxygen-rich red blood cells in the blood - has been used by the sport's authorities only since 2001.

Zabel is currently riding the Tour de France with his Milram team. Ironically, during Friday's sixth stage he was wearing the green jersey.

© AFP 2007

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