The name Jan Ullrich elicits negative feelings about the sports of cycling. This German cycling star ‘s fall from grace has been overshadowed by Lance Armstrong’s mainly because of the press and Hollywood celebrity that the later had. Sportspersons alike can draw more lessons for cyclists and for governing bodies from his tragic ending to his career than the American. Who is Jan Ullrich? For the benefit of those who don’t know he was a professional cyclist who turned pro in the mid 90s and retired in the mid 2000s. He was arguably the second best rider in the world in that era, finishing runner up to Lance Armstrong in 2000, 2001,2003 and winning it in 1997. His world came crushing down in 2006 when Spanish police started an investigation of a doctor named Eufemiano Fuentes who was then allegedly involved in supplying performance enhancing drugs to cyclists and teams. Like Lance, Jan denied the allegations but despite that he was suspended from the Tour De France in June 2006 and a month later fired from his team T-Mobile. This for me is a source of discomfort about the issue, why suspend a guy without formal proof(yet) even though chances are he is guilty as sin?
Well a sting operation by the officials in Germany seized his DNA and matched it to blood found in Fuentes’s offices(again this was no conclusive proof of doping) and within 4 months the Swiss cycling federation had canceled his cycling licence. In February 2007 , Ullrich announced he was retiring from pro cycling and as a parting shot claimed to have NEVER cheated(which is an all too familiar line). Oh, did I mention he was an Olympic Gold medalist from Sydney 2000 and after the Court of Arbitration for Sports ratified his doping guilt, he refused to return it. In refusing he stated that, not in his exact words, everyone in those days was using so he didn’t feel like it was cheating. That is one point I want to challenge on both sides of the problem. Jan’s allegations that the field in Sydney 2000 was dirty surely deserved an investigation from the IOC and if true the whole race should be nullified instead of giving the medal to the next best rider in the race. Ullrich would have a mental breakdown in 2018, 5 years after finally admitting to doping, after assaulting a prostitute in Mallorca.
This proved too much for the ex cyclist who was on bond at the time for manslaughter in a drink driving incident. The world has treated dopers like criminals instead of ill persons who need help and Jan’s case is a perfect illustration of that. If a person abuses drugs they go to rehab, why not a person who is found to have used performance enhancing drugs? In my book they need help just as much as any patient, psychological and physical help. If Jan Ullrich had the help he needed what happened with the assault and manslaughter issues would probably never have happened.