AP Sports Writer
LONDON (AP) - Former American rider Bobby Julich says he used banned drugs during the late 1990s when he finished third in the Tour de France, forcing him Thursday to leave his Team Sky coaching job.
The British team asked staff and riders last week to confirm they had no past links to doping as cycling tries to clean up following the Lance Armstrong scandal. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report led to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, and Julich is the latest cyclist to come forward.
Julich, who was a teammate of Armstrong's at Motorola and Cofidis between 1995 and 1997, posted a letter last week on the Cycling News website.
Julich said he used EPO "several times" between August 1996 and July 1998. He said his wife discovered his doping during the 1998 Tour de France when he finished a career-high third.
"Those days were very different from today, but it was not a decision that I reached easily," Julich said. "I knew that it was wrong, but over those two years, the attitude surrounding the use of EPO in the peloton was so casual and accepted that I personally lost perspective of the gravity of the situation."
Julich said he was not doping at the time of his third-place in the time trial at the 2004 Athens Olympics. In August, the IOC upgraded him from bronze to silver when American teammate Tyler Hamilton was stripped of his gold after he acknowledged doping.
"There were times that I was tempted to return to the dark side, but after some difficult years, I stopped thinking about what others were doing and focused on my own performance and enjoyment in the sport," Julich said. "Most importantly, I proved to myself that it is possible to compete clean and I came back with solid, clean results that I am extremely proud of."
Julich spent two seasons at Team Sky.
"Bobby has shown courage in admitting to the errors he made long before his time with Team Sky," team leader Dave Brailsford said. "We understand that this is a difficult step for him and we've done our best to support him."
"We've made clear our commitment to being a clean team and been open about the steps we're taking. Although it's never easy to part, we believe this is the right thing to do," Brailsford said.
Julich, who won the Paris-Nice stage race in 2005, hopes to stay in the sport.
"I apologize to everyone, especially those associated with Team Sky for my past indiscretions," he said. "I made some poor decisions and have paid and will pay a huge price. I am taking responsibility, at the expense of not being able to finish what I started, with some of the best people that I have ever been associated with.
"To this new generation of young riders; I hope that you will learn from the past and avoid the mistakes many of us have made. It is up to your generation to insure that the issues of the past do not affect your future. I am truly sorry that you all are dealing with something that you had no part in creating."
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)