Former cycling star allegedly drove with a blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit
GENEVA, May 21, 2014 (AFP) – Germany’s only Tour de France winner Jan Ullrich was allegedly almost three times over the drunk-driving limit when he crashed his car and injured two people in Switzerland, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
“I’m sorry. Thank God that nobody died,” said the retired star, according to Swiss tabloid Blick. “I was under stress, I was coming from an appointment and I wanted to get home as soon as possible,” added Ullrich, who lives in Switzerland.
Police in the Thurgau region, where Monday night’s crash occurred, said in a statement that a man responsible for a crash failed a breathalyzer test and was stripped of his driver’s license on the spot.
The test revealed a level of 1.4 grams of alcohol per liter of blood. The legal limit in Switzerland is 0.5 grams. Follow-up tests were due on blood and urine samples, police said.
According to Blick, Ullrich said that he was driving 20 kilometers (12 miles) per hour over the speed limit.
“My God, this could happen to anyone,” he’s quoted as saying.
The newspaper said that Ullrich claimed alcohol was not to blame for the crash, which occurred outside the village of Mattwil in northern Switzerland.
“There wasn’t any alcohol involved,” Ullrich said.
Contacted by AFP, Thurgau police declined to name Ullrich.
“We never give any information about the identity of people involved people in a case of a car accident,” they said.
A police statement said simply that a 41-year-old driver failed to brake in time at a junction and crashed into the back of another vehicle which had pulled up at a stop sign.
While Ullrich turned 40 last December, it is standard practice for Swiss police to give a person’s age according to their next birthday, if it falls in the year in which an incident occurs.
The car that was hit was thrown into a field, overturned and then came to rest on its wheels, while the 41-year-old’s car went on to collide with another vehicle and also went off the road.
Two people were taken to the hospital. The police said the driver to blame for the crash was not injured. The accident caused tens of thousands of Swiss francs of damage, police said. (One Swiss Franc is about $1.11.)
A photograph distributed by police showed the road littered with plastic debris and covered in skid marks.
A silver Audi A6—which Blick said was Ullrich’s—stood in a field next to the road with its bumper caved in. On the other side was a red Citroen C3, the rear of which had taken the impact of the crash, while a white Alfa Romeo remained in the middle of the road.
Ullrich, who retired in 2007 having won the 1997 Tour, admitted for the first time in June 2013 to doping during his career with transfusions, using his own blood, by Spanish doctor Eufemiano Fuentes.
The German, who also won road-race gold and time-trial silver medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, said he was motivated by the desire to compete against his rivals on a level playing field.
In February 2012, Ullrich was found guilty of a doping offense by the Court of Arbitration in Sport (CAS) and retroactively banned from August 2011 and all his results since May 2005 were removed.
Now Ullrich lives with his wife Sara and three sons on the shores of Lake Constance in Switzerland.
Rumor has it that Jan may have been on his way back from an Cycling Advocacy alcohol-themed fundraiser. When asked about this a spokesman a spokes said that there is nothing about cycling and imbibing alcohol which would make this incident remarkable. He reminded us that lots of cyclists do the entire Tour de France in a buzzed state and that even on the last day of the Tour de France alcohol is served right on the bikes.
One of the press corps asked however how this squares with today’s observance of cyclists killed by drunken drivers (i.e. Ride of Silence). There was an awkward silence before someone suggested taking the rest of the press conference over to the local brew pub where free automobile parking was available. While there several toasts were raised to Jan an man after our hearts. We took turns blowing into a breathalyzer and singing drinking songs.
Someone then suggested that we hop into our cars and follow the Ride of Silence in our cars, the way Jan would want. Since each member of the press corps drives a foreign car we decided to race through the streets blowing stop lights and signs and shouting ‘Gimme the Idaho Stop Law‘ at the top of our lungs. Finally we were thrilled that the pretense of cyclists being offending by drunk driving had been laid to rest.
We are thinking of naming Jan Ulrich the patron saint of inebriated cyclists. Of course he cannot really be canonized until after his death. But we are all hoping that we can practice swilling beer and wine while riding with the top down on our convertibles. And afterwards we will practice riding six abreast with champagne goblets in hand (ala the Champs-Élysées).
It’s a great day to be drunk and on a bike or in a car.