Disgraced former T-Mobile rider Patrik Sinkewitz has admitted having banned blood transfusions and using illegal blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO) since 2003 in an interview to appear in German magazine Der Spiegel on Monday.
The 27-year-old was sacked by T-Mobile during this year’s Tour de France after he failed a pre-race drugs test when it was discovered he had abnormally high levels of testosterone.
He spent five-hours giving evidence to the German Cyling Federation’s (BDR) disciplinary committee ten days ago in an effort to get his expected two-year ban reduced.
And in Monday’s edition of Der Spiegel, Sinkewitz admits he first started taking EPO in 2003 when he rode for Team Quick-Step.
“It was no secret then that EPO made you faster,” Sinkewitz said.
Sinkewitz says he had blood transfusions, a practice banned by the sports governing body, to improve his blood’s oxygenation and increase red cells.
He says the practise continued at T-Mobile until 2006 and was administered by team doctors Lothar Heinrich and Andreas Schmid, who were sacked in May after admitting giving cyclists EPO.
“In November 2005, at the time of our first meeting, I definitely spoke to them about blood doping and they said to me that it was possible,” said Sinkewitz. “They did not give out EPO readily and only did it so our riders wouldn’t go to any other doctors.”
Sinkewitz says all doping operations in T-Mobile stopped after the 2006 Tour when 1997 winner Jan Ullrich was linked to the Fuentes scandal in Spain and the team was completely reorganised.
Of his own positive drugs test, Sinkewitz says he applied some testosterone gel to his arm to help his recovery after training and added the quantity was “the bare minimum.”
But tests have shown Sinkewitz sample was 24/1 testosterone to epitestosterone, while a result of 4/1 will produce a positive result.
Sinkewitz’s test sparked a backlash in Germany after yet another doping scandal further tarnished the sport’s image.
Television stations halted transmission of the Tour and Deutsche Telekom, whose T-Mobile is a subsidiary company, considered withdrawing their sponsorship.
“I felt guilty about it all, the failure in the fight against doping, the withdrawal of television coverage and the fact cycling had clearly not changed,” Sinkewitz admitted.
After his sacking, Sinkewitz has worked hard with the authorities to reduce the damage and hopes to have his ban reduced to one year.
“I want to ride again, I can’t think of anything else,” he added.
Here’s the interview in English.
© BikeRadar & AFP 2007