Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What is a Champion?

I wasn't surprised when I read that Jan's DNA, taken in early February, was matched to numerous blood bags found in Fuentes' office. His lawyers say it was the result of manipulation (...riiight), but I guess they're just doing what they're suppose to be doing. This is not a questionable positive result from a urine sample, or an accusation from a journalist or newspapers.

People have called him the best, the most talented, the rider with the bigger engine, but with evidence like this, will his legacy still hold up? Probably. Look at Pantani. I've never understood how people still call him the Champion that they think he is, after he was caught using drugs. The truth is (to me), is that he would have been just another rider gone unseen and unnoticed, had it not been for the drugs that put him on the top. How many positive drug results have you seen that were from riders in the peloton that nobody ever heard of? That number it seems, at least in my case, is very few. It's when you get up to the higher calibre of rider, however, that you will find a lot of the evidence that suggests doping. Think back to the 2006 Giro D'Italia. A rider no one had ever heard of scorched the Giro with top stage finishes and coming in an amazing 2nd place. José Enrique Gutierrez was later named in the Operacian Puerto scandal. That's not to say everyone involved in a drug scandal is guilty, but in that case, it was a little more than suspicious.

I was watching a video of the 2000 Tour de France a few weeks ago, and noticed something that gave me a sick feeling in my stomach. Every single top rider in the stage to Mt Ventoux was either proven to have doped, confessed, or was involved in a large doping scandal. Riders like Jose Jiminez who had a shadey past involving drugs, Richard Virenque who confessed after being involved in a scandal, Pantani who tested positive and also was involved in a drug scandal, Roberto Heras who tested positive, and numerous Ibanesto members who were all involved in a large team doping scandal, and not to mention Jan Ullrich. All involved in doping in one way or another, all Champions to their fans.

There's 2 types of fans. Fans that will always stick by their favorite cyclist through thick and thin, or a fan that will expect to see great bike racing no matter what it takes, but when that rider is involved in a doping scandal they come up with some stupid response like, "I've been watching cycling for 20 years, but now I am going to quit because of doping." Get real. Learn to love cycling for the sheer beauty of it, and focus on the riders who stand up for a clean sport and say it loud and proud. No one cares if you stop watching cycling, that's your loss.

Like they say, admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery. It seems like it'd be a pretty convenient time for Jan to admit that he was doping, considering all the evidence against him. Take David Millar for example. He admitted it, and he got the respect from other riders, and fans alike. The same goes for Richard Virenque. I think it takes a true Champion to admit you've done wrong, and then coming back and being successful is just icing on the cake.

Winning every race you enter doesn't make you who you are. One of the most popular German cyclist, and maybe the most popular now, is Jens Voigt. He'll never win the Tour de France, or even podium, but few riders can say they've had a more successful career then Jens. He just defines success in a different way.

So what makes a Champion? Is it always being in that lead group on the climb, or a rider who at the end of the day, knows he rode his best and can sit down and be content with just that.

1 comment:

Cary Taylor said...

I've wondered the same thing about these recently alleged dopers; what is it about some riders who receive a warm welcome back to the sport (ex. Millar) and those who do not (Hamilton)? Is it only the confession that counts? Is it the honor that is revealed in admitting your own weakness, rather than the honor that you try and protect with lies that ultimately wins out? It seems so.