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Danish report: Riis knew about doping on team, escapes ban

MILAN (VN) — A long-awaited report from the Danish Anti-Doping Agency (ADD) came to the surface Tuesday and painted a bad picture of 1996 Tour de France winner and former Tinkoff-Saxo owner Bjarne Riis. The Dane, however, escaped a ban from sport due to the statute of limitation.

The bald 51-year-old, nicknamed “The Eagle from Herning,” knew or encouraged his grand tour stars to dope through their careers, Danish officials reported.

In its 97-page report, the agency uncovered “patterns and cultures” that involved the “use of substances and methods, particularly EPO, cortisone and blood doping.”

American Tyler Hamilton, Bo Hamburger, Michael Rasmussen, and Jörg Jaksche explained that Riis knew about their use of doping.

Sources reported incidents that occurred as late as 2008, when the team raced as CSC, and Spaniard Carlos Sastre won the Tour de France with stars Andy and Fränk Schleck as teammates.

Riis urged Sastre to partake in blood doping in 2008 and that allegedly was why Sastre decided to leave the team, according to an anonymous source in the report.

Riis, however, denied in the agency’s report that he pushed Sastre to dope. The agency was unable to prove this and could not ban him from sport, even though the incident allegedly occurred seven years ago.

He also denied that he knew star rider Ivan Basso, who won the 2006 Giro d’Italia and placed second (2005) and third (2004) in the Tour as a member of CSC, went to doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. In the report, however, Jaksche said Riis was aware of Basso’s trips to Madrid to get blood transfusions.

Riis admitted that he knew Tyler Hamilton was using Fuentes for blood doping during his time on the team (2002-2003) and said he did not try to prevent him from doing so.

“In conclusion,” reads the report, “the investigation group finds that the statute of limitation in the World Anti Doping Code — and in the Danish Anti-doping Regulations — which was eight years until January 31, 2014, and 10 years from January 1, 2015, prevent ADD from bringing forward a doping case against Bjarne Riis.”

The agency also investigated Danes Johnny Weltz and Alex Pedersen. Despite anti-doping violations, it was unable to issue a ban due to the statute of limitation.

Another former member of CSC/Tinkoff, Nicki Sørensen, admitted this week that he doped during the early part of his career. He is named in the ADD report.

Sørensen retired from racing after last season and is now a sport director for Tinkoff. The team responded to his doping confession with a statement:

Nicki Sørensen informed the management of Tinkoff-Saxo at the time he spoke to Anti Doping Denmark (ADD) in 2013. Sørensen advised Tinkoff-Saxo that the matters he talked about with ADD were related to before 2004 and he expressed his deep regret that they had occurred. Tinkoff-Saxo accepted that these were matters to be privately resolved between ADD and Sørensen. Tinkoff-Saxo has a deep-rooted anti-doping culture that is implemented throughout the entire team. Tinkoff-Saxo was convinced at the time and remains of the view that Sørensen has conducted himself fully in accordance with this culture over the past decade of working with the team. Additional information, if required, will be made public in due time.

Tinkoff-Saxo has supported the cooperation and collaboration by all its members with any entity involved in creating a better environment in professional cycling. The team believes that a full disclosure of negative past practices should be encouraged in order to identify and implement appropriate measures to prevent wrongdoing in the present and future sport.