An unworthy winner

Denmark's biggest sporting name ever admits to using performance-enhancing drugs

Displaying contrition, but also the combativeness that characterised his career as cyclist, Bjarne Riis, the 1996 winner of the Tour de France, admitted Friday that he used EPO, a performance-enhancing drug, from 1993 to 1998.

Riis has consistently denied using performance-enhancing drugs, most recently in August 2006. With his statement today, he becomes the first rider to admit being drugged when winning the gruelling three-week Tour de France.

Referring to yesterday's admission by members of his 1996 Team Telekom - the current T-Mobile - that they also used the drug, Riis said: 'I was rider in the period that is being debated right now. I have done things I regret. I took EPO and it was a part of my day.'

Riis added though using using the drug made him an unworthy Tour de France winner, he said that 'the experience and the memories' of being a champion cyclist will stay with him forever.

'I know that I haven't earned them honestly, but I know how hard I have fought.'

Throughout his 10-minute monologue Riis maintained his characteristic slow, clam tone of voice. Although he was occasionally forced to swallow hard, he consistently reiterated that the choice to use EPO had been his own, and that he fully accepted the consequences of it.

During his explanation of his own drug use, Riis often changed gears, attacking the motives of other riders who have come forward in recent days. He questioned whether they had done so simply in order to clear their own consciences or in an attempt to achieve personal gain.

'I've got no respect for people that come forward in order to earn money,' Riis said, arguing that whatever the reason riders chose to come forward, forcing the sport to try to clean up its past only took away from efforts to weed out today's riders who use performance-enhancing drugs.

'You can't change the past. What I want to do is change the future. I will fight for that.'

Now the owner of Team CSC, Riis told reporters that the reason for coming forward today was to shield his riders from the intensifying media speculation over whether he had used EPO.

'I thought that the past was the past. But it isn't anymore. People might have a hard time accepting this, but I have actually put it behind me,' he said. 'I am doing this to make sure that the hard work I have done for the team isn't interfered with.'

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