In the German press it was reported that Telekom put Ullrich's contract "on ice" after the doping incident (it was never clear to me what that meant). They then offered him a new one, with a significantly lower salary. As I understand it, he had the option of accepting or rejecting it.
About ten days ago, he formally rejected it. The word on the street is that CSC Tiscali wants him badly--partly because the coach Bjirn Riis (sp?) is an old pal from Telekom. But, they need to solidify some sponsorship agreements in order to afford him--and they'd like to add a German sponsor to round out their program. Word has it that both Coast and Gerolsteiner have expressed interest, but I am not sure this can be confirmed. If Ullrich were to end up at Gerolsteiner, he would then have Udo Bölts as his coach, no longer as domestique, since Bölts just signed a deal with Gerolsteiner.
I hope that Ullrich has truly grown up this year. Maybe a new environment will give him what he needs for his comeback. I think that it will also do Telekom some good.
P.S. I agree that Zabel remains the most sympathetic of pro cyclists. His smile alone won over my fiancée. What brought me firmly into fan-ship was an interview after the final sprint in the Tour. The reporter asked him something about another rider interfering with the sprint set-up. Zabel started to say something in agreement, but stopped and said, "No, we made a mistake, and McEwen was simply a tick faster." I like it when folks take responsibility like that.
I heard recently that Zabel got a letter from a fan criticizing him for not wearing a helmet. The author reminded him that he has a responsibility to set an example for his younger fans, of which there are many here. Zabel seems to have taken the advice to heart and sports his helmet much more often.