Former Giro d’Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) has apologised for doping earlier in his career following the publication of accusations by disgraced Danish rider Michael Rasmussen.
Rasmussen claims in his forthcoming autobiography to have taught Hesjedal to take EPO in 2003 when the Canadian was a mountain bike rider for Rabobank’s development team.
And, in a statement issued last night, Hesjedal confessed he was guilty of having made “mistakes…more than ten years ago” and apologised for his part “in the dark past of the sport”.
He said: “Cycling is my life and has been ever since I can remember. I have loved and lived this sport but more than a decade ago, I chose the wrong path.
“Even though those mistakes happened more than ten years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since.
“To everyone in my life, inside and outside the sport – to those that have supported me and my dreams – including my friends, my family, the media, fans, my peers, sponsors – to riders who didn’t make the same choices as me all those years ago, I sincerely apologise for my part in the dark past of the sport. I will always be sorry.”
Garmin-Sharp, who operate a strict anti-doping policy, offered their support to Canada’s first and only Grand Tour winner – stating the US Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) and the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports (CCES) were already aware of Hesjedal’s past doping.
A team statement read: “As we have said from the beginning, Slipstream Sports was created because we wanted to build a team where cyclists could compete 100 per cent clean.
“And, as we have previously stated, our expectation is that anyone in our organisation contacted by any anti-doping authority must be open and honest with that authority.
“Ryder is no exception and a year ago, when contacted, he cooperated fully and truthfully testified to USADA and CCES.
“For this reason and because of our desire for 100 per cent truth and reconciliation in the sport of cycling, we support him.”
Hesjedal, who is backed by directeur sportif Charly Wegelius to be a Grand Tour contender next year, also thanked his team for their support.
He added: “I am deeply grateful to be a part of an organisation that makes racing clean its first priority and that supports athletes for telling the truth.
“I believe that being truthful will help the sport continue to move forward, and more than a year ago when I was contacted by anti-doping authorities, I was open and honest about my past.”