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German Cyclist Erik Zabel to Retire

German sprint specialist Erik Zabel is to retire from professional cycling next week, the Milram cycling team said.

German cyclist Erik Zabel

Germany's Erik Zabel maintained he doped for only one week, then stopped

Zabel, 38, who is competing at the road cycling world championships in Varese, will end his career after racing on Oct. 3 in Muenster, Germany.

Zabel is one of Germany's most accomplished cyclists, with more than 200 professional career wins including 12 Tour de France stages.

He wore the final sprinters' green jersey at the Tour de France a record six consecutive years between 1996 and 2001, and was a four-time winner of the Milan-San Remo spring classic.

Tainted memory of Zabel?

German cyclist Erik Zabel

Zabel was highly emotional when admitting to using performance enhancing drugs

In May 2007, Zabel confessed that he had taken the blood-booster Erythropoietin (EPO) while training for the 1996 Tour de France and while cycling for Germany's Team Telekom.

EPO increases the production of red blood cells, thereby allowing an athlete's blood to deliver oxygen to muscles more efficiently.

"I used it as a test and ended it after one week because I had problems with the side-effects," said Zabel last year.

"Since then, for the past eleven years, I have always denied doping. I lied, and I apologize for this," Zabel had said at a tearful press conference.

Speculation was rife as to whether Zabel would be dumped by Milram amid the doping revelations, but the professional cycling team ultimately honored the racer's three-year contract through to this year's end.

Mass doping revelations

Zabel's confession last May came after several similar admissions from other riders and two doctors from Germany's most successful riding team.

University doctors Andreas Schmid and Lothar Heinrich admitted to EPO blood doping in the mid-1990s at Team Telekom.

Zabel was a team-mate of Bjarne Riis, who also admitted to using EPO during his 1996 Tour de France win.

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