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Culture

Payment Spares Ullrich From Criminal Fraud Prosecution

Prosecutors agreed to drop doping-related fraud charges against German cycling star and Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich in exchange for a hefty monetary settlement. Ullrich still insists that he's innocent.

German cyclist Jan Ullrich

Ullrich no longer has to worry about a criminal trial

The Bonn prosecutor's office said the payment, described only as a six-figure sum, will mean the retired cyclist, who now lives in Switzerland, will not have to face criminal charges.

The deal ends nearly two years of investigation into whether Ullrich defrauded his T-Mobile team by taking performance-enhancing drugs, thus illegally increasing his income. German law allows the defendant to opt for an out-of-court settlement.

While the deal ends the criminal investigation, further civil proceedings in connection with those allegations could still be brought up in court.

Authorities convinced of doping

Ullrich with team jersey on a bike

Did Ullrich defraud his team?

"Our investigations over 21 months have shown that Ullrich had doped," Bonn prosecutor Fred Apostel told DPA news agency.

Ullrich decided he couldn't compete as a cyclist unless he participated in doping, according to a statement from the prosecutor's office. Ullrich, who won the Tour de France in 1997, insists he is innocent.

In a statement on his Web site, Ullrich said the decision to make the payment, the majority of which will be donated to an un-specified charitable organization, was not an admission of guilt.

"There could be no admission because no one has been defrauded," Ullrich's Web site said.

Ullrich said on his Web site that he had not entered into a deal because he was worried about being found guilty, but rather to save his family from the pressure of a court case. He also said he only agreed to the settlement as the money will be going to a good cause.

Many cyclists under suspicion

A frozen bag of blood found during a raid in Madrid

Dozens of cyclists have been accused of doping

Ullrich is one of several cyclists to have been caught up in the Operation Puerto investigation into a cycling doping ring with Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes. In 2006, police found large quantities of anabolic steroids, equipment used for blood transfusions and 200 bags of blood linked to more than 50 cyclists.

Bonn prosecutors have said they have proof of payments between Ullrich and Fuentes. DNA analysis has shown that 4.5 liters of blood stored by the doctors belonged to Ullrich.

The accusations led Ullrich into early retirement.

A former teammate, Joerg Jaksche, who has admitted to doping said that he thinks it's right that the allegations of fraud be dropped because "if doping was the usual thing he has not defrauded anyone."

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