Former Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich has announced that he is returning to cycling. Ullrich, who was banned for doping five years ago, is to become the sporting director of a major race in Germany.
Jan Ullrich, the winner of the 1997 Tour de France, was quoted in this Tuesday's edition of the "Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger" newspaper as saying that he would take the post with the annual Rund um Köln cycling race, which he won in 2003.
Ullrich told the paper that working for the race organizers was "a big honor."
The appointment of the now 43-year-old Ullrich is bound to raise some eyebrows as he was linked with the doping affair around Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes in 2006, prompting his retirement from the sport one year later. In 2012 the Court of Arbitration for Sport banned him from cycling for two years for taking performance-enhancing substances. One year later he admitted to having engaged in doping.
The race's chief organizer, Artur Tabat, however, defended the decision to appoint Ullrich as the race's sporting director.
"There will always be critics," Tabat told the SID news agency. "But look at what has been going on in terms of doping in Russia. Things were harmless in the old days."
He also seemed to play down Ullrich's use of PEDs.
"He was a very honest young man, a fair athlete, who was clean when he became the amateur world champion (in Oslo in 1993). After turning professional, he lagged behind for two years. When everybody is driving a Porsche and you're driving a Beetle, you want some more horsepower too," Tabat argued. "And then somebody comes along and shows you how it is done."
The 101st edition of the Rund um Köln race is to be held on June 11.