Thomas Dekker. The shocking humility.
Thomas Dekker has class.
Not the most exciting lead we’ve ever knocked out but sometimes direct trumps clever. Dekker himself is writing a little textbook on how to handle a doping suspension with honesty and humility.
When he was popped for EPO, his reaction wasn’t the formulaic bullshit handed out by riders like Di Luca, Rebellin, Schumacher and the like. No talk of conspiracy theories, UCI vendettas, sloppy test lab protocols or cheap legal tricks designed to get him off the hook on a technicality. He is the anti-Valverde, the un-Vinokourov.
No, after some initial soul-searching Thomas Dekker, admitted to doping and said he was sorry. These days that’s nearly shocking — he apologized. That almost makes him a pro cycling freak.
Now the 26 year old Dutchman is training hard with the goal of being race-ready when his suspension ends on July 1st. We’re impressed with his attitude of gratitude and his clear-headed understand of what he’s been through and where he’s headed.
“I know that I can come back with my head held high. That makes me feel stronger. I made a mistake and have paid for it,” said Dekker. “And of course there are people around me who could have advised me better. I don’t resent it. But we will see who ultimately has the better life.”
That’s right, no self-pity, no resentment, no unwillingness to admit past mistakes. Thomas Dekker, you rock and we’re in your corner. Maybe you should be teaching a Dope Suspension How-To seminar. Nothing wrong with a little side income.
Now maybe his straighforward honesty doesn’t have the drama of Danilo di Luca in an Italian church with his personal priest and a few hundred school children. Danilo had his own come-to-Jesus moment but we’re not ready to put out the welcome home sign for a double offender who didn’t even serve his full sentence.
Dekker cut his ties with the drug gang and is back with a full program with Dutch coach Adrie van Deimen. He knows he’s under the microscope and isn’t afraid to deal with consequences.
“People need to know where I stand. They shouldn’t think that after I spent half a year in the gutter that I’m full of drugs,” said Dekker. Imagine Alejandro Valverde saying that.
The former Rabobank rider had lived in a bubble, believing he was untouchable and that reality was whatever he decided. “I didn’t care at that time. I was believing my own story. I had forgotten about the mistake I made. I even got a letter from the UCI saying that there was no problem with my blood values,” said Dekker. “I was starting to believe I was invincible. That made me even stronger. But nobody is invincible…” That almost sounds like our favorite bike shop owner in Vienna, former Tour King of the Mountains, Bernard Kohl.
The moment when the real moral inventory began was when Garmin withdrew its contract offer shortly after the 2008 Tour de France. Things looked perfect, the salary top notch, and Dekker was ready to turn over a new leaf and ride clean. But one look at his blood values and Jonathan Vaughters terminated the deal.
According to Dekker, the Garmin manager put it this way: “You made a mistake that you didn’t have to make. I know your qualities, I’ve followed you since you were an U23 rider. This is bad. I’ll give you some advice: get out of this and move on. Use your natural talent.’
“That was it,” said Dekker. “The wake up call. The first person who made me realize the situation I was in. The bubble burst. From that moment I changed.”
We’re excited to see Thomas Dekker race this year. Perhaps he will eventually find a home at Garmin-Cervelo. Walk up calls are good but the trick is, you have to listen.