Zabel resigns from post following doping admission

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LAUSANNE, July 29, 2013 (AFP) – Former Tour de France sprint ace Erik Zabel resigned from his position with the Professional Cycling Council Monday following his doping admissions, the International Cycling Union said.

The 43-year-old gave an interview published on the Sueddeutsche Zeitung website Sunday in which he admitted to using EPO between 1996 and 2004.

“I never had a structured doping plan, never had any experts around me, and so never saw myself as a superdoper. I only had recommendations.” he told Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

Zabel said that in 1997 “I myself took EPO before the Tour started and throughout the whole race.”

Zabel regrets that now. “That was a really stupid mistake, I knew that on my way home.” Son Rick, who turns 20 in December, is on the verge of a professional career, as he will ride for BMC Racing Team as of next year.

“I demand things from him that I myself have never been able to do. I can’t control whether people will want to destroy me not or not. But Rick has just signed his first pro contract with 19, he is just starting his career.”

“Because I am really convinced that you can’t compare cycling today with the dark days of my time.” Zabel added that he needed to tell all in order to be able “to look at myself in the mirror again.”

The six-time Tour green jersey winner’s confession came a few days after a French government commission released the names of a number of cyclists whose retroactively tested samples from 1998 and 1999 had come up positive in 2004.

Back in 1998 and 1999 there was no test for EPO.

“The International Cycling Union has announced that the former sprint cyclist Erik Zabel has resigned from the Professional Cycling Council,” said a UCI statement.

“He contacted the UCI President earlier today (Monday) to offer his resignation and to further express his ‘deep regret for having lied for so long about taking performance enhancing substances’. Erik Zabel said that cycling is now in a cleaner era, however he is no longer the right person to be a part of the Professional Cycling Council.”

Zabel retired as one of the greatest sprinters in the sport’s history in 2008, a year after he had admitted to having tried EPO in 1996 in the lead-up to the Tour de France.

However, his latest admission showed he lied even then as he previously claimed he had only tried it for a week before stopping due to side effects.

In Sunday’s interview he also owned up to using cortisone and blood doping.

He was among several high profile names whose retested samples showed they used EPO during the 1998 or 1999 Tours.

Disgraced former seven-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong, who has been stripped of his titles, tested positive for EPO from the 1999 edition while another two former winners, Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich, as well as another sprint king Mario Cipollini all provided positive samples from 1998.

Zabel’s son Rick, now 19, has just signed his first professional cycling contract.