Belkin Pro Cycling are parting company with their sports director, former Dutch rider Jeroen Blijlevens, after he was named in a report into doping in the 1998 Tour de France, the team said Thursday.
“Belkin Pro Cycling and Jeroen Blijlevens are going their separate ways with immediate effect,” a statement said after he was named, along with other top cyclists, as having used banned blood-booster erythropoetin (EPO) in the controversial 1998 race. “The reason for this decision is Jeroen Blijlevens admission of doping made today during a meeting with management following the publication of the French Senate’s report,” it said.
Belkin was formerly known as Rabobank, which ended its 17-year sponsorship of professional cycling in October last year saying that the sport had been irrevocably damaged by a succession of doping cases, including within the Rabobank team.
“The team places great importance on values of transparency and trust and cannot see, given these new developments, any future for Blijlevens in the team,” it said of the 41-year-old who ended his 10-year racing career in 2004.
Blijlevens, who won four Tour stages from 1995 to 1998, signed a document earlier this year stating he had never had recourse to doping, despite the possibility of suffering only a six-month suspension if he had confessed.
“Our team was looking for a new sponsor,” Blijlevens said in an open letter published along with the statement. “I decided to use EPO for the first time during the Tour in 1997.”