German Jan Ullrich has officially ended his career. The former Olympic champion and Tour de France winner made the announcement on Monday morning in a press conference in Hamburg.
Sacked by his team, T-Mobile, last summer, Ullrich’s name had been repeatedly linked to that of Eufemiano Fuentes, the Spanish doctor at the centre of the Operacion Puerto scandal. T-Mobile therefore decided first to keep him out of the 2006Tour team – making the announcement just 24 hours before it was due to start – and then to show the German the door.
Teamless and without a licence Ullrich had repeatedly asserted his innocence – but to no avail. He even provided a sample of his DNA for German authorities investigating the allegations that he had worked with Fuentes. Up to now, as the Puerto investigation continues to stagnate in Spain, the allegations remain unsolved.
Rumours of a possible signing and a fresh start with Quick Step, Discovery, Tinkoff and finally a small German team, Volksbank, all proved to be groundless. Ullrich even began training again, principally in Mallorca, but as the 2007 season started, it was looking more and more unlikely he would race again. The categoric refusal of the Tour of Germany organisers to accept him in their race this summer made it harder for any sponsors to risk taking him on.
A rider who started his career in late 1995 and who rode through the entire Lance Armstrong era, Ullrich’s career has been as noteable for its highs – such as the ‘97 Tour, two World Time Trial victories, the 1999 Vuelta and the 2000 Olympics road-race – as it has been for its lows.
Described by Lance Armstrong as “the only rider I really fear on the bike”, Ullrich notched up five second places in the Tour as the American beat him time and again each July. Other setbacks included a positive test for amphetamines, problems with his weight and last but not least his as yet inconclusive connections with Puerto.