Jan Ullrich Retires From Cycling
Monday, February 26th 2007, 9:09 am
By: News On 6
HAMBURG, Germany (AP) _ Former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich retired from cycling Monday while lashing out at his critics.
The 33-year-old German, whom Lance Armstrong often called his biggest rival, ends his 12-year career amid an investigation into his alleged role in a Spanish doping scandal.
But Ullrich said he had no regrets in his career in which he won the Tour in 1997 and was runner-up five times.
``I am ending my active career _ it's not easy, but you have to listen to the voice inside you that the time is right,'' Ullrich said. ``It was a good time and I would do it the same way again, even the bad times.''
Ullrich said he will stay in the sport as a consultant for the small Austrian-based Volksbank team.
Ullrich complained he has been treated unfairly by cycling officials and by the German media since the Spanish scandal broke last April.
He has not been charged in the case, in which a Madrid Clinic allegedly provided 57 top riders with performance-boosting drugs.
``I feel like a serious criminal although I have nothing to reproach myself,'' he said. ``People have made a name for themselves at my cost. Some were 100 percent lies.
``I wished I had gotten more support from some people, but I am not bitter.''
Ullrich said he was still fit and had received offers from seven teams to race this season, including several from the elite ProTour teams.
He has been without a team since being fired by the T-Mobile team last summer.
``I could have had a team immediately,'' Ullrich, accompanied by his wife and mother, said at a news conference. ``But when one door closes, three more open. I'm not going to jump off a bridge. I'm a young man who knows what he wants.''
The Spanish probe led to Ullrich, a pre-race favorite, being expelled from last year's Tour de France. He called the day the most bitter of his career.
``My world broke together a little, honestly,'' Ullrich said. ``It was a shock I still haven't completely recovered from. It was an overreaction _ it was an unprecedented prejudgement through part of the press and the cycling organizations.''
On July 20, he was dismissed by T-Mobile and hasn't raced since.
Ullrich said he is only under investigation in Germany, where a woman professor has accused him of fraud against the public.
He was angry at the Swiss Cycling Federation, saying the organization left the impression publicly it was ready to ban him for life. His last cycling license was issued in the country.
``I ask myself where this evidence is. For eight months I've been asking myself that,'' Ullrich said.
Ullrich will work as a media consultant with Volksbank and with the team's young riders' program.
When Ullrich burst on the scene by finishing second at the 1996 Tour de France as a 22-year-old, many thought he had the talent to dominate cycling for years.
The following year he became the first German winner of the Tour, setting off a cycling boom in his homeland.
But Armstrong eclipsed him by winning seven times in a row, while Ullrich battled weight problems in the offseason and accusations he lacked discipline.
Walter Godefroot, his former team director, demanded a daily report on his activities in 2002 when two disco visits got him into trouble.
His driver's license was revoked for drunken driving when he plowed his car into a row of bicycles. A few months later he tested positive for amphetamines and served a six-month ban. He said the stimulant was laced into some ecstasy he took in the disco.
But Ullrich's manager said his client had never regretted anything.
``He raced the way he wanted too, that is why people love him,'' Wolfgang Strohband said.
Ullrich also won a gold and silver at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.