By Duncan Mackay

Jan Ullrich Tour de France 1997June 22 - Former Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich has finally admitted that he blood doped during his career - putting the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in a difficult legal position.

The German won the gold and silver medals at Sydney in 2000 in the road race and time trial but under the Olympic Charter cannot be punished because there is an eight-year statute of limitations.

The IOC's ruling Executive Board, though, set a precedent in January when they removed the bronze medal Lance Armstrong won in the time trial after he confessed to doping throughout his career, even though that was outside the statute of limitations

Ullrich's confession in German magazine, Focus, however, is far less clearcut than Armstrong's was on Oprah Winfrey.

An earlier attempt by the IOC to investigate Ullrich has already had to be dropped in 2010 because of lack of evidence.

Jan Ullrich winning road race Sydney 2000Jan Ullrich celebrates winning the Olympic gold medal in the road race at Sydney 2000

Ullrich admitted to Focus to blood doping but denied that it was cheating, claiming that as everyone else at the time was also doing it it just allowed him to compete fairly. 

Ullrich, who won the Tour de France in 1997 and finished second on five other occasions, told Focus that he was part of Dr Eufemiano Fuentes' doping programme in Madrid but said he only ever used his own blood.

Ullrich, who retired in 2007, was given a two-year ban for the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) for his part in the Operacion Puerto scandal and had all his results from May 2005 removed, but until now had never publicly admitted his guilt.

"Yes, I availed of Fuentes' treatments," Ullrich told Focus.

"The subject is history for me.

"I want to look forward and never back.

"Almost everyone at the time was taking performance-enhancing substances.

"I have taken nothing that was not taken by the others.

"It is only cheating for me if I get an advantage which was not the case.

"I just wanted to ensure I had an equal opportunity.

"The area where it harmed me most was regarding my public image and possible health issues - which I don't have.

"The victories still came down to talent, performance, team spirit and will to win."

Jan Ullrich on Tour de France podium with Lance ArmstrongJan Ullrich (left) claims that Lance Armstrong (right) was "protected" during his career by the UCI but he always believed that the truth would catch up with him one day

Ullrich also put further pressure on Hein Verbruggen and Pat McQuaid, the past and current Presidents of the International Cycling Union (UCI), claiming that Armstrong had been protected throughout his career.

"I always knew Lance Armstrong would not get away with it, even if he was probably for years protected by one or the other institutions and the world governing body," he told Focus.

"Neither of us thought we were guilty of anything.

"I'm not better than Armstrong but no worse.

"The great heroes of the past are today people with flaws with which we must cope."

If the IOC do decide to take action against Ullrich and strip him of his medals from Sydney 2000 then the cyclist who stands to gain most from his disqualification would be Kazakhstan's Alexandre Vinokourov, who won the silver medal in the road race.

Vinokourov won the road race at London 2012 but only having served a two-year suspension having been caught blood doping at the 2007 Tour de France. 

In the time trial the IOC have already decided not to reallocate the bronze medal they stripped from Armstrong.

If they decide to also take away Ullrich's then it could leave the unprecedented situation of only one medal being awarded in the event, to the winner, Russia's Viatcheslav Ekimov, a former team-mate of Armstrong's.

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