Bjarne Riis admitted today to using EPO, a lot of EPO, over the majority of his career. I can’t say I’m too surprised at the news as the rumors have been following Riis for many years now. His critics will call him “Mr. 60 percent” in reference to a reported test that put his hematocrit level at 64% during his racing days. Given that and all the revelations coming out of the old Telecom/T-Mobile camps, no one can say they are shocked.
What does surprise me is the utter completeness of his confession. No “I did it once or twice.” or “I only doped in races I didn’t win.” or even “The team made me do it.” He admitted to systematic doping from 1993 to 1998 including doping his 1996 tour win. He took complete responsibility for his actions. Riis even admits that he is not worthy of a Tour de France victory.
What confuses me is what to do with this information. Should/can I separate Riis the rider from Riis the Director? CSC currently has one of the best anti-doping programs in the sport ironically rivalling that of T-Mobile. Can we say that the ’90s were a different time and we should judge a man by his actions today?
OK, what do we do about the 1996 Tour. Will Bjarne be the first Tour winner stripped of his title? This honor the French press has gleefully saved for Floyd Landis. If we do, does the jersey go to the second place finisher? Wait, remember, that person is Jan Ullrich. OK, let’s give it to the third place finisher. Wait, that’s Richard Virenque. Fourth? Laurent Dufaux. Forget that line of thought. If they don’t take it away, can you take Floyd’s? I don’t remember hearing about a statute of limitations on Tour victories.
Can this situation be likened to the parent who did a lot of drugs in college trying to raise their kids drug free? I know quite a few of them and I have to say most of them are great parents. Should they continue to carry the label fashioned during that period of their life?
For me, I think Bjarne the rider should be treated as such. Do what you need to do with the 1996 Tour. Take Riis’ name off and replace it with an asterisk if that is the proper thing to do. Treat Riis the Director by his actions as Director. If he has also ran afoul of the law then throw him out for good. If not, let him continue to manage one of the best teams in the world. I’m sure the board of CSC is currently wrestling with this question.
Riis’ full statement.