Jan Ullrich, the only German winner of the Tour de France, has for the first time admitted to doping, with the help of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes who ran a large-scale doping network.
"Yes, I had access to treatment from Fuentes," the 1997 winner of the Tour de France told the Focus weekly in its edition to appear tomorrow.
"At that time, nearly everyone was using doping substances and I used nothing that the others were not using."
Ullrich, who rose to prominence in cycling when he won gold and silver medals at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, said he was motivated by the desire to be competing on a level playing field with his main rivals.
"In my view you can only call it cheating on my part when it is clear that I have gained an unfair advantage," he argued.
"That was not the case. All I wanted was everyone to have the same chances of winning."
Ullrich's doping admission comes months after a similar public pronouncement by his greatest career rival and nemesis Lance Armstrong. The seven-time Tour de France winner admitted to doping throughout his career in January and was subsequently stripped of his Tour titles and banned for life.
Ullrich had three second-place finishes behind Armstrong in the Tour de France in 2000, 2001 and 2003 and was also runner-up behind Italian Marco Pantini in 1998, the year after he won the race. "We are both guilty," said Ullrich, referring to the American. "I am no better than Armstrong, but no worse."
But Ullrich's confession has been branded "too little, too late" by Thomas Bach, the president of the German Olympic Federation.
"Jan Ullrich had his chance for a creditable admission a couple of years ago and he missed it," said Bach. "Today's confirmation of some of the already well known and established facts helps neither Jan Ullrich nor cycling."