Oslo, Norway – Steffen Kjaergaard, a former teammate of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong, has confessed to using banned performance-enhancing drugs.
The 39-year-old Norwegian, who retired from the sport in 2003, revealed on Tuesday that he had taken cortisone and EPO. Steffen Kjaergaard was suspended from his job at the Norwegian Cycling Federation immediately after the announcement.
Kjaergaard’s decision to come clean, so to speak, had an unexpected motive behind it: Whereas most cyclists found guilty of doping are caught red-handed, Kjaergaard said he simply “couldn’t bear the lie anymore.” He told assembled reporters:
“I have long thought that it was best for cycling as a sport that I took this (secret) to the grave. But the last weeks have made me change course for my own sake and tell the truth.”
For Steffen Kjaergaard, the final straw came in recent weeks during which doping revelations involving the US Postal Service team emerged. Kjaergaard and Lance Armstrong rode together in the US Postal Service team when the American won the Tour de France in 2000 and 2001. Kjaergaard added that he was unaware of any of his teammates using banned substances, though he added, “I assume there were others.”
The world of cycling has been rocked this month after former champ Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles by the International Cycling Union. The US Anti-Doping Agency had provided compelling evidence of drug use by his Tour-winning teams.
Armstrong has since been asked to repay $7.5 million by an insurance company who paid the cyclist several million dollars in bonus money for his Tour de France triumphs. Since that payment was based on Armstrong being a Tour champ, the company argues they should be paid back now that Armstrong’s titles have been scrubbed out.
However, Kjaergaard clarified that he had seen none of his teammates become involved in doping or performance-enhancing substances. He told Associated Press reporters:
“I have not directly witnessed anyone else dealing with this. That’s why I do not want to expose anyone else.”
Although Kjaergaard won no major international races in his career, he did clinch several major Norwegian titles. As Kjaergaard gave his public confession to the press, federation President Harald Tiedemann Hansen sat by the former cyclist’s side. He told journalists at the conference:
“This is a sad day for Norwegian cycling, but we wanted to have this out in the light. [Kjaergaard] has admitted to doping and he has nothing to do with the cycling world anymore. He has been suspended until his term ends on Dec. 31 and he will not continue in the job.”
Kjaergaard’s confession may have dented Norway’s image as a “clean” nation and a country that is leading the fight against doping in sports. The response on Twitter to Steffen Kjaergaard coming clean reflects the sense of cynicism that has now attached itself to the sport of cycling:
— Erik Soerflaten (@eriksoerflaten) October 23, 2012
— M-Voice of Hate (@M_Hate) October 23, 2012
Cycling fans: What do you make of Kjaergaard’s admission and cycling’s wider doping scandal? Sound off in the comments.