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Cycling in Denmark is struggling with the doping past


Denmark celebrates a folk festival with the start of the Tour de France. But cycling in the country also has a difficult legacy to contend with: Almost all top cyclists of the past were deeply involved in doping.

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Michael Rasmussen at the 2007 Tour - still in yellow.



Roskilde is used to parties, but today's party is going to be bigger.

The Tour de France starts its second stage here, and in the evening the legendary music festival comes to an end.

The main act on stage on Saturday are the »Strokes«, they play their hits: »Bad Decisions«, »Take it or leave it«, »Killing Lies«, »Barely legal«, »Meet me in the Bathroom«, »I can't win” – and if you want, you could use all these song titles as a playlist for a documentary about Danish cycling's doping past.

There is a darker side to Denmark's cycling history, and that has a lot to do with the Tour de France.

When the country is currently celebrating what is probably the biggest weekend in its cycling history, when tens of thousands are cheering the peloton on the side of the road between Copenhagen, Nyborg and Vejle, it should also be remembered.

Danish pros have helped shape the tour over the past 40 years, and one name in particular stands out.

Bjarne Riis, the only Dane to have won the Tour de France so far.

That was in 1996, Riis stormed into the yellow jersey in the jersey of Team Telekom, with his young adjutant Jan Ullrich at his side.

His hour came a year later.

Monsieur 60 percent

It is the heyday of widespread doping in professional cycling.

In the field, Riis had the nickname "Monsieur 60 percent" because his hematocrit blood value was always so abnormally high.

It took Riis many years to admit what he was doing.

When the front of silence crumbled left and right of him, when the lying buildings of the Telekom team had long since collapsed, he still refused to publicly confess.

In 1997 the Swiss Pascal Richard Riis had already accused of doping.

The Dane kept his silence for ten years, then he revealed himself at a press conference: EPO.

Cortisone, growth hormones, Riis left out little.

The tour victory was initially denied him, but since his doping offenses were more than eight years ago and according to the logic of the world association UCI were statute-barred, he is still the official tour winner in 1996. Riis was never one of the insightful, as sporting director of the CSC teams until 2015, he was never one to attract attention as a scout.

On the contrary: He just seemed to carry on as if nothing had happened.

Even during his time as CSC boss, the suspicion of doping accompanied him reliably.

Tour boss Christian Prudhomme declared Riis persona non grata after his doping press conference and asked him to return his yellow jersey.

At the time, Riis replied defiantly that the jersey was "in a box somewhere in the garage" and that you were welcome to pick it up there.

The tour starts in Denmark, it's the country's biggest folk festival, and the only tour winner, Bjarne Riis, hasn't been invited.

Officially, the organizers say, somewhat bashfully, that they have prioritized inviting official representatives such as mayors, members of the government and representatives of the royal family to the tour events instead of Danish athletes.

"Of course I'm upset about not being there," Riis said tight-lipped in a television interview with Danish broadcaster TV2.

After all these years he still hasn't understood anything.

Andersen, Hamburger, Sorensen

Bjarne Riis is the most prominent name, but by no means the only one.

At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Denmark's Knud Enemark Jensen fell off his bike 20 kilometers from the finish line due to heat stroke, sustained a skull fracture, fell into a coma and died a few days later.

The autopsy found he was full to the brim with amphetamines.

The death of Knud Enemark Jensen prompted the International Olympic Committee to introduce doping controls.

Not only was Kim Andersen a three-time Tour stage winner in the 1980s, he was also the first professional ever to be banned for life - after testing positive three times: in 1985, 1986 and 1987. He later worked as the team's athletic director by Bjarne Riis with.

Bo Hamburger, stage winner in 1994, was the first professional cyclist to be convicted of EPO use thanks to a new detection method.

His sentence back then, »Cycling meant so much to me that I would probably have sold my wife Sanne in the course of my career in order to achieve my goal«, could be the headline about cycling in the nineties and noughties.

Rolf Sørensen, 1991 yellow jersey wearer for four days, 53 professional victories, a folk hero in Denmark, admitted in 2013 to having used EPO and cortisone - after having vehemently denied it for many years: »There is no other excuse than that I did what I felt I was forced to do in order to be on the same level as my colleagues.« It's the argument that cycling has lived with for so long: if everyone does it, I do it too.

First yellow, then red

Namesake Nicki Sørensen, stage winner in 2009, testified in detail to the Danish investigators after his career, charged Riis massively, admitted to having also started doped at the Olympic Games.

Brian Holm, former Telekom driver, admitted to using EPO in 2007, Jesper Skibby, stage winner in 1993, wrote an autobiography after retiring, in which he made a clean sweep because he "wanted to be honest with his children" - and then there was that Michael Rasmussen.

After Riis, Rasmussen was the biggest Danish Tour hope, a mountain flea, excelling at climbing, wearing the polka dot mountain jersey in 2005 and 2006.

2007 was supposed to be his big hour, Rasmussen took over the yellow jersey, overall victory seemed close - then after the 16th stage he was taken out of the classification and suspended by his team Rabobank.

He had previously avoided doping controls by lying about his whereabouts.

Rasmussen admitted in 2013 that he used doping substances continuously from 1998 to 2010.

He said with a view to the industry: "100 percent have doped."

Today's top riders in the country are Kasper Asgreen, Jakob Fuglsang, Jonas Vingegaard, last year's Tour runner-up.

You ride with a heavy backpack on your back.

They're also going against the legacy of Riis and Rasmussen.


Source: spiegel

All sports articles on 2022-07-02

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