BERLIN, May 26: Germany’s Erik Zabel, who admitted to having doped in 1996, should continue his career according to Pat McQuaid, the President of the International Cycling Union (UCI) on Friday.

“Erik is a cycling icon. If he says he’s been clean since mid-1996, and I believe him, he could be a real role model for the young pros in the peloton,” said world cycling’s chief. “He must continue his career,” added the Irishman.

“He can be more of an asset to the anti-doping campaign by being in the peloton than being out of it.”Zabel, a six-time winner of the Tour de France points classification’s green jersey, is still a top contender in the twilight of his career and finished second behind Alejandro Valverde in the world championships road race in 2006.

On Thursday he admitted he had taken the blood-boosting drug EPO while competing for German team Telekom during the Tour de France in 1996. He said he had used the drug for one week and then stopped because of side effects.

According to World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) rules, doping offences admitted retroactively are wiped from the slate after eight years, meaning Zabel cannot be sanctioned.

His contract with the Milram team is due to expire in 2008, and he has been called to Bremen this Saturday to the team headquarters. “His offence was eight years ago, but that should not be our only criteria to decide whether Erik can continue racing,” said Gerry van Gerwen, General Manager of Milram. —AFP

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