Andreas Kloden says his T-Mobile team were wrong to suspend Jan Ullrich over doping allegations, claiming they would have won the Tour de France with him.
Kloden insists team-mate Jan Ullrich is innocent
Ullrich, who along with team-mate Oscar Sevilla has subsequently been sacked, was withdrawn on the eve of the race.
"We fought till the end for Jan, so he can be proud of us," said Kloden, who finished third behind Floyd Landis.
"With Jan here, we would have won the Tour this year. Jan was innocent. I know him. He's a good friend of mine."
Despite the absence of their team leader, who won the Tour in 1997, T-Mobile claimed three stage wins.
Matthias Kessler was victorious on stage three while Serhiy Honchar won both time-trials.
Kloden, who finished a runner-up to Lance Armstrong in 2004, finished second to Honchar in the penultimate stage time-trial on Saturday to finish third overall.