Canadian pro cyclist Ryder Hesjedal publicly apologized on Wednesday after a soon-to-be-released book revealed that he was taught how to take a banned substance when he was a mountain bike racer in 2003.
"Cycling is my life and has been ever since I can remember," said Hesjedal in a statement issued by his management group Slipstream Sports.
"I have loved and lived this sport but more than a decade ago, I chose the wrong path. And even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact that I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since. To everyone in my life, inside and outside the sport - to those that have supported me and my dreams - including my friends, my family, the media, fans, my peers, sponsors - to riders who didn't make the same choices as me all those years ago, I sincerely apologize for my part in the dark past of the sport. I will always be sorry."
Danish newspaper Politiken published an excerpt from former cyclist Michael Rasmussen's autobiography 'Yellow Fever' on Wednesday, which said that Rasmussen taught Hesjedal - among other Canadian cyclists - how to take Erythropoietin. The excerpt did not say whether Rasmussen ever saw Hesjedal or any other Canadian cyclist actually take EPO or any other banned substance, or whether they ever used these substances at any time in their career.
"It soon became evident that the three Canadian mountain bikers Seamus McGrath, Chris Sheppard and Ryder Hesjedal, had seen the light: A good result in the World Cup (2003) would send them to the Olympics in Athens in 2004," read the book's excerpt from Politiken.
"They moved into my basement in August, before I went to the Vuelta a Espana, and after I had ridden the Championship of Zurich. They stayed for a fortnight. I trained with them in the Dolomites and taught them how to do vitamin injections and how to take EPO and Synacthen."
EPO is a naturally-produced hormone released from the kidneys and acts on the bone marrow to stimulate red blood cell production. The increase in red blood cells improves the amount of oxygen that the blood can carry to the body's muscles.
Hesjedal added that he was contacted by anti-doping authorities over a year ago and was "open and honest" about what happened in his past.
"Although I stopped what I was doing many years before I joined Slipstream Sports, I was and am deeply grateful to be a part of an organization that makes racing clean its first priority and that supports athletes for telling the truth," he said in his statement.
"I believe that being truthful will help the sport continue to move forward, and over a year ago when I was contacted by anti-doping authorities, I was open and honest about my past. I have seen the best and the worst of the sport and I believe that it is now in the best place it's ever been. I look at young riders on our team and throughout the peloton, and I know the future of the sport has arrived. I'm glad that they didn't have to make the same choices I did, and I will do everything I can to continue to help the sport that I love."
Hesjedal made the move to stage racing in 2005 and won the Giro d'Italia in 2012, becoming the first Canadian to win a Grand Tour race. The victory also earned him the Lionel Conacher Award as Canada's male athlete of the year.
Rasmussen has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs through his professional career. The Danish rider said in his own media conference last January that he doped from 1998 through 2010 and was served with a two-year ban by Anti-Doping Denmark.
Cycling Canada released its own statement on Hesjedal's apology later on Wednesday.
"Like many Canadian cycling fans, we were shocked and saddened to learn that Ryder Hesjedal was involved in doping over a decade ago. To his credit, he has been open and honest with the anti-doping authorities that investigate such matters in a confidential fashion as we learned today through his statement and the subsequent statement of Travis Tygart, CEO of USADA.
"We continue to urge any athletes that have information about doping in the sport to come forward to the CCES to help with the ongoing fight against doping."