Bjarne Riis believes that despite his doping history, he deserves a second chance in professional cycling. The 55-year-old Dane, who in 2007 announced that he used prohibited drugs as a rider, is back in the WorldTour this season as co-owner of the South African team NTT Pro Cycling.
"Have I learned from the past? Absolutely," says Riis, currently in Australia for the Tour Down Under, to Cyclingnews . "I learned that cycling does not need the shit of the past."
The Dane won the 1996 Tour de France, but eleven years later he admitted that he had used the prohibited substance epo in the Tour de France between 1993 and 1998. Because the use of doping was barred at the time of his confession, the Tour victory could not be taken from him.
After his active career, Riis was in charge of CSC between 2001 and 2015 and later Tinkoff-Saxo. Although former riders like Tyler Hamilton and Michael Rasmussen and a Danish study from 2015 have claimed that the Scandinavian knew about doping within his team during that period and encouraged it, Riis has always denied that.
"I know where I am now and I know that I have changed. Although some people will say I will never change", says Riis. "My past has hurt me a lot, but I closed that chapter. I knew that doping would destroy cycling and me and my family. I experienced the price you have to pay for doping."
Bjarne Riis (right) has taken a 30 percent interest in NTT Pro Cycling. (Photo: Getty Images)
Riis is allowed to work in cycling
David Lappartient, chairman of the international cycling union UCI, said this week in Australia that Riis can work in cycling again. There is a rule that prevents doping sinners from taking up a position in sport, but it only applies from 2011 and not retroactively.
"I know that not everyone wants me back in cycling," says the Deen. "But this team wants me and I can guarantee you 100 percent that I wouldn't be here if I wasn't sure that cycling is going very well at the moment. I still have a passion for the sport and I believe I can do something add."
Riis states that he will never again end up in a doping scandal. "I will never make the same mistakes again. I know for sure. And if I fail again, you can put me in prison."
See also: The cycling calendar of 2020