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CYCLING: `I took ecstasy,' admits Ullrich.

FORMER Tour de France champion Jan Ullrich today admitted that he had been guilty of ``massive stupidity'' in taking two ecstasy tablets.

The German faces a possible six to 12-month suspension and could be sacked by his team, Telekom, after testing positive for amphetamines.

The rider, tour winner in 1997 but ruled out of this year's race with a knee injury, said the reading was the result of two ecstasy pills he had taken while drunk on June 11. A friend offered him the pills, saying they would help him beat the depression he was feeling while he fought to regain his fitness but did not tell him what they were.

``It was massive stupidity,'' he said.

``He said to me that there was nothing in them. I took it, without thinking.''

The next day he was given a team-ordered dope test at the clinic where he was being treated for his knee injury.

It revealed the presence of amphetamines - an ingredient in most ecstasy pills - which is banned as a performance-enhancing drug.

However, Ullrich insists he is not guilty of cheating.

Because his injury means he cannot train or compete, he says he could not benefit from the drug.

``I accept the positive A-sample,'' he said.

``However for me it is clear that is not doping. I have never tried to improve my performance with banned substances.''

When the result was announced on Thursday, Telekom were prepared to give the German the benefit of the doubt for the same reason.

However, their position may have to change after the German cycling federation (BDR) announced their intention to initiate proceedings against Ullrich which, if successful, could result in a year-long ban.

Telekom are contractually obliged to sack a rider if he is suspended for a drugs offence.

At the moment he is temporarily suspended by his employers, while team officials conduct their own investigation - a decision that Ullrich accepts.

``A suspension is absolutely justified,'' said Ullrich.

``But I can't say anything about my contract.

``We've had good talks and I've had plenty of support but I can't say anything concrete at the moment.''

His June 11 night out is not the first time that alcohol has got Ullrich into trouble.

The Olympic champion is currently serving a driving ban after crashing his car into a number of stationary bicycles after drinking several glasses of wine.

Despite success in Sydney and the World Championships, the 29-year-old has hit something of a rut since conquering cycling's biggest test at a precocious 24. He has finished second in Le Tour four times since then, twice to current champion Lance Armstrong, who has claimed the dominance that appeared to be Ullrich's for the taking five years ago.

However, he is intent on bouncing back.

``I can't end my career this way. It is a priority for me to come back,'' he said. ``I'm very disappointed in myself. But now that I'm down I want to get back up.''
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Jul 7, 2002
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