Patrik Sinkewitz during July's Tour de France: "It was already clear that it would be over after the Tour."
German professional cyclist Patrik Sinkewitz came close to triggering the demise of the Tour de France in July. A member of the T-Mobile team, Sinkewitz tested positive for testosterone on June 8 during a training camp in the Pyrenees.
The results were only made public six weeks later, during the actual Tour and three days after Sinkewitz collided with a spectator during a descent in the Alps and was hospitalized in Hamburg with severe facial injuries. His fall was the culmination of a series of scandals that began with his confessions and an exposť in SPIEGEL and ended with two German public television networks, ARD and ZDF, terminating their live reporting of the Tour.
Sponsor T-Mobile, which had imposed a strict ban on doping on its team, also considered withdrawing from the race. Sinkewitz, 27, has been questioned at length by Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA), public prosecutors and the German Cycling Federation. He told investigators about the alleged doping practices at Team Quick Step, a professional cycling team of which he was a member from 2003 to 2005. By offering his testimony, Sinkewitz hoped that he would be eligible for leniency and could return to professional cycling after one year.
Since testing positive for doping in June, Sinkewitz has kept his silence. However, in an exclusive interview with SPIEGEL, he discusses blood doping treatments he obtained from the Freiburg doctors and why he hopes, despite everything, to soon make a comback to the sport.
SPIEGEL: Mr. Sinkewitz, how did you find out about the positive results of your doping test?
Sinkewitz: It was around noon on July 18, three days after my accident. I had been given a sedative and was being taken to the operating room in a wheelchair. My phone rang, but I didn't recognize the number.
SPIEGEL: Who was it?
Sinkewitz: I don't remember, perhaps a journalist. He asked me to comment on the fact that I had tested positive for testosterone in a random test at a training session on June 8. June 8? Testosterone? I really didn't understand what he was talking about. I told him that I was about to go into surgery. I remember that I was wondering where I could get more information. But I was under anesthesia 10 minutes later.
SPIEGEL: When you received the call, was it already clear to you that you had been caught?
Sinkewitz: No, I wasn't fully aware of it until the next morning. The patient in the bed next to me told me that the newspapers were reporting on the test, and it was on television all day long. I stayed in Hamburg a few more days, and during that time I received a visit from Rolf Aldag, the sporting director at T-Mobile. He advised me to tell the truth.
SPIEGEL: And what is it? What exactly happened in the Pyrenees?
Sinkewitz: The whole thing was bizarre. I had two or three small, 25 mg bags of testosterone gel in my wallet.
SPIEGEL: You just happened to have the stuff on you?
SPIEGEL: Hard to believe.
Sinkewitz: But that's the way it was. I can't explain it either. I rubbed the contents of one bag onto my upper arm on the evening of June 7, just before I went to bed. I thought: Well, it can't hurt. I flushed the packaging down the toilet.
SPIEGEL: You hadn't been doing too well before that, and the Tour, the most important race of the season, was fast approaching. Was that why you resorted to the drug?
Sinkewitz: I was concerned about my form, despite the victory at the Frankfurt Grand Prix. The year hadn't gone the way I had expected, especially at the classic races. After you've lost a couple of races, you start to wonder whether the others are faster than you because they're getting a little extra boost. The crazy thing is that I really wasn't under any pressure. My contract wasn't going to expire until the end of 2008, and everyone was satisfied with me. But I wasn't. I always wanted to improve.
SPIEGEL: How did the doping test happen the next day?
Sinkewitz: Five of us went on a long ride, more than 200 kilometers (124 miles). We got back to the hotel at about 8 p.m. We knew that inspectors were there waiting for us. A masseur had notified our sporting director. It was normal for us to be tested at the training camp.
SPIEGEL: Testosterone is easy to detect. Weren't you in a panic?
Sinkewitz: Not at all. I wasn't in the least bit concerned after the test.
SPIEGEL: Why not? Don't you consider a small bag of testosterone doping?
Sinkewitz: I knew, of course, that it's prohibited. But I assumed the amount wouldn't be detectable. I also didn't feel that I had done anything wrong.
SPIEGEL: You knew that you had broken the rules, but you thought it was nothing?
Sinkewitz: That was our approach to it as cycling pros. I didn't think anything of it when I put the stuff on my arm. I'll probably never really know why I did it. I can count off on one hand the number of times I've used testosterone gel -- because it doesn't really do much. But taking something to improve my performance just happened to be a part of my life.
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