Erik Zabel, the former Team Telekom rider who last week admitted to using banned blood-boosting drug EPO in the 1990s, has been given the green light to continue racing by his Milram squad, and will start the five-day Bayern-Rundfahrt that starts this Wednesday (May 30).
According to a statement issued this morning (Tuesday, May 29) by Team Milram, the squad and its main sponsor, Nordmilch AG, have consulted Zabel and have come to an agreement that he should continue on the team.
“The decision wasn?t easy for us. Team Milram takes the ProTour Teams? ethic code very seriously. But Zabel?s offence dates back 11 years and according to the UCI?s anti-doping-rules is time-barred,” Milram team manager Gianluigi Stanga said. “Simultaneously we received positive signals from the UCI, IPCT and ASO. Had this incident happened during his time at Team Milram, no conversation would have taken place. At the end of this year we are going to decide if we will continue working with Erik Zabel next year.”
Zabel is openly relieved to have finally revealed his past activities: “After I apologised to the public on Thursday I explicitly want to apologise to the management and my colleagues at Team Milram as well as to our main sponsor. I am thankful that the persons responsible appreciate my openness and that they have decided that I am allowed to continue riding for Team Milram,” Zabel said.
“Since last year we established a huge passion for clean cycling with our young riders at Team Milram. I?m looking forward to be allowed to be a part of this team further on.”
The message from Milram is clear: Zabel is a well-respected and well-liked rider, and the team and its sponsors have taken his doping confession as a way of moving forward from professional cycling’s murky past. However, Milram state that they are likely to impose some form of sanction on Zabel ‘in the future’, but the exact details of this punishment, and when it may take effect, remain unclear at present.
Zabel’s return to competition is effective immediately, and the German will be back in action tomorrow (Wednesday, May 30) at the Tour of Bayern.
Team Milram: www.team-milram.com.