Leipheimer apologizes for doping

Santa Rosa celebrity cyclist Levi Leipheimer has reached out to people who took part in or worked on the GranFondo charity ride he created, apologizing in a letter for having doped to improve his race performance.

"I truly regret letting you down," he wrote in a letter sent by email to the biking community and published today in The Press Democrat as a letter to the editor.

"The admission was terrifying to confront, not because I was afraid of the truth — truth meant a better sport, after all — but because I was afraid of how those I cared about would react," he said in the letter to "Dear current and past GranFondo participants and supporters."

The annual event draws upwards of 7,000 riders.

Sonoma County cyclists who are involved with the four-year-old event welcomed the letter.

"I think it was essential that Levi said something to the local people," said Jonathan Lee, who coordinates the Fondo's on-bike course marshals and is president of Red Peloton, a nonprofit charity organization and cycling team.

"For a day and a half there was silence on the local front," said Lee. "People are insecure as to, &‘Is Levi going to be the hero we believe him to be and really come out and face this and be open about this?' If you don't you're almost hiding from it."

Others who said the letter was the right step said it should also be possible to distinguish Leipheimer the confessed doper from Leipheimer the champion of the county's increasingly high-profile cycling scene.

"I think there's one thing that's really important to keep separate, which is what a person has accomplished," said Gary Helfrich, executive director of the Sonoma County Bicycle Coalition.

"In Levi's case all the things he's done for cycling in Sonoma County, and the things he's done as a professional. That's only a part of who he is," he said.

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