Ex-professional cyclist Grischa Niermann said he took the banned performance-enhancing substance EPO, becoming the fourth former Rabobank team rider to say he’s cheated.
Niermann said he’d taken erythropoietin, or EPO, an endurance-boosting hormone that stimulates red-blood cell production, “a few times” between 2000 and 2003, the Dutch cycling federation KNWU said on its website today. The federation suspended him for six months as of Feb. 15, it added.
Niermann, 37, joined the KNWU Jan. 1, having previously been on the Rabobank coaching staff after he retired last summer. He said he stopped using banned substances in 2003.
Rabobank Groep, a Dutch mortgage lender, in October ended its 17-year sponsorship of cycling after the team was linked to the doping scandal involving Lance Armstrong. Last week, Rabobank said doping admissions made by three of its former athletes were “disturbing and shocking.”
Danny Nelissen, Marc Lotz and Thomas Dekker admitted using banned performance-enhancing substances to news outlets in the Netherlands. Nelissen told broadcaster RTL he’d started using EPO during the Tour de France in 1996 and 1997, when he was riding for Rabobank.
Lotz told broadcaster L1 he’d started using EPO and cortisone in 2001, while Dekker told Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that “doping was a way of life for many of my teammates and colleagues.”
A report by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency in October, which described widespread cheating, said American rider Levi Leipheimer doped when on the Rabobank team in 2003. Leipheimer is a former teammate of Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life for what USADA said in October was “serial cheating.”
Armstrong said he cheated by doping in a television interview earlier this month following 13 years of denials.
Niermann’s testimony has been handed to the independent Sorgdrager Commission, which was set up in December by the Dutch cycling federation and the Netherlands Olympic Committee to investigate the country’s anti-doping practices.
Chaired by former Justice Secretary Winnie Sorgdrager, the commission offers witnesses who come forward with evidence anonymity and possibly a less-severe sentence if they inform the country’s anti-doping authorities of their offenses. It’s scheduled to publish a report in June.