PARIS Canadian Ryder Hesjedal, winner of the 2012 Giro d'Italia, became the latest rider to admit to a troubled past when he said on Wednesday he had doped "more than 10 years ago".
"I have loved and lived this sport but more than a decade ago I chose the wrong path," said the Garmin-Sharp rider in a statement.
"Even though those mistakes happened more than 10 years ago, and they were short-lived, it does not change the fact I made them and I have lived with that and been sorry for it ever since."
The statement came in response to allegations by Dane Michael Rasmussen who said earlier on Wednesday he taught Hesjedal how to take the banned blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO) in 2003.
Rasmussen was kicked out of his Rabobank team while was leading the Tour de France in 2007 for having lied about his whereabouts to doping authorities.
His claims were made in a book, from which extracts were published by Danish newspaper Politiken on Wednesday.
Rasmussen was at Rabobank in 2003 while Hesjedal, then a mountain bike rider, was in the Dutch outfit's development team.
"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," said Hesjedal.
The Canadian was one of several riders - past and present - and managers to be called on to testify by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in the case against Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles for doping.
"Athletes like him, and others, who have voluntarily come in, taken accountability for their actions and have been fully truthful, are essential to securing a brighter future for the sport of cycling," USADA CEO Travis Tygart said in a statement.
"As in all cases, where there is actionable evidence of doping within the statute of limitations, we have imposed discipline and announced sanctions.
"We continue our ongoing investigation into the sport of cycling, and have also been urging the UCI to take the decisive and transparent action it announced over a year ago to truly set the sport on a new foundation for the good of clean athletes."
Hesjedal was one of Armstrong's team mates at U.S. Postal and Discovery Channel in 2004 and 2005.
Having joined Garmin, a team built on a strong anti-doping stance, Hesjedal is confident his sport is on the right path.
"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," he said.
Garmin-Sharp said they were backing their rider.
"As we have previously stated, our expectation is that anyone in our organization contacted by any anti-doping authority must be open and honest with that authority," a team statement read.
"Ryder is no exception and a year ago when he was contacted he cooperated fully and truthfully testified to USADA and CCES (Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport).
"For this reason and because of our desire for 100 percent truth and reconciliation in the sport of cycling, we support him."
Several riders at Garmin-Sharp, including former Armstrong team mates David Zabriskie, Hesjedal, Tom Danielson, Christian Vande Velde and manager Jonathan Vaughters, have testified before USADA against the disgraced American rider.
In January, Armstrong admitted to years of using performance-enhancing substances during his career.
(Editing by Tony Jimenez and Alison Wildey)