Hesjedal admits to doping: ‘I chose the wrong path’

2012 Giro d'Italia champion Ryder Hesjedal admits to taking banned substances in the early part of his career

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In response to Michael Rasmussen’s claims that Ryder Hesjedal learned how to use EPO in 2003, the Canadian rider has come clean and publicly admitted to being a part of cycling’s “dark past.”

“I have loved and lived this sport but more than a decade ago, I chose the wrong path,” Hesjedal said in a statement released by his current team, Garmin-Sharp. “And even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact that 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 apologize for my part in the dark past of the sport. I will always be sorry.”

In an excerpt from his autobiography, Yellow Fever, Rasmussen said he taught Hesjedal and two of his Canadian mountain bike teammates — Seamus McGrath and Chris Sheppard — how to use EPO before the 2003 world mountain bike championships. Rasmussen claims to have never witnessed the riders use the banned blood-booster, but he said their blood levels were almost at the UCI limit after they stayed with him for a month in August of that year.

“Chris Sheppard was 16th at the [2003] world championships, Seamus McGrath was sixth or eighth, before he went out, and Ryder Hesjedal finished second,” Rasmussen writes, according to Danish newspaper Politiken. “Hesjedal would have won Olympic gold [in 2004] if he hadn’t punctured just before the finish.”

Hesjedal, who has ridden for Garmin-Sharp since 2008, won the 2012 Giro d’Italia.

Garmin has a zero-tolerance policy to riders who use PEDs, and Hesjedal said he told anti-doping authorities about his use of banned substances last year.

“Although I stopped what I was doing many years before I joined Slipstream Sports, I was and am deeply grateful to be a part of an organization that makes racing clean its first priority and that supports athletes for telling the truth,” he said. “I believe that being truthful will help the sport continue to move forward, and over a year ago when I was contacted by anti-doping authorities, I was open and honest about my past.

“I have seen the best and the worst of the sport and I believe that it is now in the best place it’s ever been. I look at young riders on our team and throughout the peloton, and I know the future of the sport has arrived. I’m glad that they didn’t have to make the same choices I did, and I will do everything I can to continue to help the sport that I love.”

Garmin said it supports Hesjedal because of his willingness to come clean.

“As we have said from the beginning, Slipstream Sports was created because we wanted to build a team where cyclists could compete 100% clean,” the squad said in a statement. “And, as we have previously stated, our expectation is that anyone in our organization contacted by any anti-doping authority must be open and honest with that authority. Ryder is no exception and a year ago when he was contacted he cooperated fully and truthfully testified to USADA and CCES. For this reason and because of our desire for 100% truth and reconciliation in the sport of cycling, we support him.”

In a statement, USADA CEO Travis Tygart confirmed that Hesjedal told anti-doping authorities about his use of PEDs.

“We can confirm that USADA, along with the Canadian Center for Ethics in Sport (CCES), interviewed cyclist, Ryder Hesjedal, earlier this year as part of our ongoing investigation into the sport of cycling,” Tygart said. “Athletes like him, and others, who have voluntarily come in, taken accountability for their actions and have been fully truthful, are essential to securing a brighter future for the sport of cycling. As in all cases, where there is actionable evidence of doping within the statute of limitations, we have imposed discipline and announced sanctions.”

The WADA statute of limitations is eight years, so based on the fact that Hesjedal claims to have used PEDs 10 years ago, he would not face any sanctions.

Rasmussen, who got his start in professional cycling by riding for a handful of mountain bike teams from 1995-2001, joined the peloton in 2002 when he signed with CSC-Tiscali. A year after that, the Dane started his five-year stint with Rabobank.

A talented climber, Rasmussen won the mountains classification at the Tour de France in 2005 and 2006. But his use of performance-enhancing drugs stained his career. Rabobank pulled him out of the 2007 Tour de France — while he was in the lead after stage 16 — for missing drug tests before the race began.

In January of this year, Rasmussen publicly admitted to using PEDs from 1998-2010. He retired on the spot.

Shortly before Hesjedal’s statement was released to the media, Cycling Canada said it was “concerned” by Rasmussen’s allegations.

“Cycling Canada is concerned by the allegations made public today related to Michael Rasmussen’s new book Yellow Fever,” the statement read. “The allegations towards Chris Sheppard, Seamus McGrath and Ryder Hesjedal dating back to 2003 are another example of why the international federation (International Cycling Union — UCI) needs to come to agreement with WADA on a way to deal with such allegations of historic doping.

“Cycling Canada has always taken a strong stance against doping and we wish to reiterate that doping has no place in our sport. Those that break the rules will be punished to the fullest extent allowed by the anti-doping regulations.”

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