Pro-Cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz Revisits Doping Scandal: 'Your Main Concern Is Not to Get Caught'
Part 4: 'Sometimes I Think that there Isn't any Point to it Anymore'
SPIEGEL: The apartments of Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes were searched before the 2006 Tour de France. Ullrich was suspended, and so was T-Mobile's sporting director, Rudy Pevenage. Did you stop blood doping right away?
Sinkewitz: No. On the evening of the first stage, I drove from Strasbourg to Freiburg.
SPIEGEL: Ullrich, your fellow team member, had been suspended two days earlier for blood doping, and you actually had the nerve to continue using the same method?
Sinkewitz: Yes. The doctors really didn't want to do it anymore. But I said, look, we have the blood, so let's put it in. What was going to happen? It was already clear that it would be over after the Tour de France. Nobody wanted to take the risk anymore.
SPIEGEL: How were you prepared for the Tour?
Sinkewitz: I was actually supposed to get two bags. But there was something wrong with both of them. The blood just wouldn't flow. A little of the blood flowed from the first bag, but then it clotted, and the same thing happened with the second bag. So I basically rode the Tour without being doped. The doctor said that this had never happened. He was embarrassed. But I didn't ask for any further explanations. It wasn't something you asked about. It just made me angry. Tough luck, I thought.
SPIEGEL: Isn't it sort of unusual to get an entire liter of blood in one session?
Sinkewitz: The original plan was to administer the second bag 10 or 15 days later. But that would've meant making arrangements, and it had become too dangerous after the Ullrich affair. There was no way that the doctors were going to travel to France with the blood.
SPIEGEL: When did you give the blood?
Sinkewitz: I began giving the blood at the beginning of the year, so that we could build up a supply of two bags over time. You have to keep replacing the blood, because it goes bad after a month. I received a bag in April, but without giving any fresh blood. I was hoping that that would prepare me for the Classic. I went to Freiburg a total of four or five times for the same reason, and I was always at the clinic where normal examinations were also done.
SPIEGEL: At Schmid's and Heinrich's clinic.
Sinkewitz: I don't want to comment on that.
SPIEGEL: How did the team react when Ullrich was suddenly gone?
Sinkewitz: It was strange for us to have lost our captain. We thought it was unfair that he wasn't being allowed to ride, just because of some alleged evidence. Meanwhile, others who were supposedly on Fuentes's list were kept on the team. That was all we knew. At the time, there was no way of predicting everything else that would eventually happen.
SPIEGEL: Did you talk about the scandal with the team?
Sinkewitz: During the Tour, you're tense from morning to night. We talked about the stages on the bus ride to the hotel, not about doping. Of course, whenever was I asked in public whether I had doped, I always said no. It's part of my job.
SPIEGEL: When you stopped the blood doping after the Tour, were you concerned that it would hurt your performance?
Sinkewitz: I was relieved. There was no more stress. You have to realize that these things are increasingly stressful. Besides, I also know that I'm not a bad cyclist, even without doping.
SPIEGEL: The T-Mobile team received strict instructions after the Tour to stop doping. Did you come to terms with the fact that your performance would suffer at first?
Sinkewitz: Well, it was hard to imagine that everyone in other countries would play along with the anti-doping campaign. Everyone says: Of course we're against doping, but many don't really mean it. For example, I was hoping that I would be in the lead this year during the Paris-Nice stage. But then the Spaniards came along and cleaned up. It makes you wonder, after the race.
SPIEGEL: Do you believe that the many confessions will be good for cycling?
Sinkewitz: Everyone told me to be honest and put my cards on the table. It hasn't helped me so far. I'm more than just somebody who sinned by doping. I'm the defendant in a crime. But telling the truth is also liberating. I don't have to hide anything anymore.
SPIEGEL: You're hoping for leniency. Why are you so determined to get back into cycling?
Sinkewitz: I don't know how to do anything else. Sometimes I think that there isn't any point to it anymore. Time is the only thing I have plenty of. I could find plenty of things to do, but when everything seems pointless, you end up doing nothing.
SPIEGEL: Are you in training?
Sinkewitz: I couldn't do anything at first, because of the injuries from my fall. I wanted to start up again after four or five weeks, but I couldn't do it. Now I'm back. I spent four hours riding through the woods on my mountain bike yesterday. I was totally exhausted. It was a great feeling.
SPIEGEL: Are you still in touch with some of your old fellow riders?
Sinkewitz: Almost all contacts ended from one day to the next. Some of the people I used to see almost every day contacted me once to see how I was doing. It was if I didn't even exist anymore. Before I tested positive, I had a three-year contract, a private sponsor and a house. And there were constantly people who were supporting me. Now I've lost my profession and I have nothing left but my house. I could use help now, but there's nobody left. Everyone knows that people pat you on the back when you're successful, but it comes as a shock to realize what it's like when the success is gone. It yanks the ground out from under your feet.
SPIEGEL: Are you ruined?
Sinkewitz: I don't make any money anymore, and I have to pay fines and lawyers. Besides, I didn't exactly make a fortune during my first few years as a professional. At least the house is paid off.
SPIEGEL: Under the terms of your contract with Team T-Mobile, you might have to pay back part of your salary.
Sinkewitz: I try not to think about that. It's something my attorney will deal with. I don't want to talk about it. Besides, what do they want from me? Haven't I been punished enough?
SPIEGEL: Mr. Sinkewitz, thank you for this interview.
Interview conducted by Udo Ludwig and Detlef Hacke.
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