Well, Jan finally got around to announcing the obvious. Don’t quite understand the hold-up but now we have it for the historical cycling record. On the Revelation Richter scale, it barely measured a .001.
As rationale, he delivered the level playing field slash everybody-was-doing-it party line. “Almost everyone at the time was taking performance-enhancing substances. I didn’t take anything that was not taken by the others,” said Ullrich. “It would only have been cheating for me if I had gotten an advantage which was not the case. I just wanted to ensure I had an equal opportunity.”
Fellow cheat Lance Armstrong greeted Ullrich’s confession with a generous treet, perhaps feeling nostalgic for their old doping days together: “Jan Ullrich? Warm hearted. Amazing athlete. Great competitor. Loved toeing the line with you my friend.”
You see — it wasn’t doping, it was just toeing the line.
Funny to think that in the end the nice, occasionally chubby Ullrich managed to beat out Lance Armstrong in the Tour record books. At least for now he owns one Tour de France title to Armstrong’s zero. Perhaps they’ll do the strip on the German, too.
From this distance it looks as if Ullrich has fared far better than his combative and generally unrepentant rival from Texas. Nobody claims that Ullrich forced any teammates to dope, was abusive if they didn’t or that he played an organizational role in the team’s doping program. Easier to play victim when you’re not in charge.
Ullrich is a reminder for us that personality and character play a big role in the redemption process. Plenty of people are angry at a rider like George Hincapie but everybody also knows George is just a regular, decent nice guy caught in a doping culture he felt he couldn’t avoid. Same goes for the talented German rider who came out of the East German sports program where athletes were taught never to say no to the coaches and doctors.
Lance, however, is another beast entirely. His core personality traits would seem to include a vindictive nature, a dangerously over-sized ego and a pathological inability to apologize. He has a scorched earth policy with rivals and friends, alike.
He continues to focus on protecting every dollar of his financial holdings instead of telling the whole truth and making amends to the people he’s hurt and the sport he has so damaged by his actions. Myth gone and the rewrite is mostly out of his hands.
Tough to get a jump start on redemption in those circumstances. His Oprah interviews were a prime example of Armstrong’s inability to understand that he’s no longer in charge.
Travis Tygart of the US Anti-doping Agency continues to slap him down every time he tries to ride a mountain bike race or do a Masters swim event. The American public is still waiting for a true sense of remorse that wasn’t evident when he spoke with Oprah.
Ullrich never got the kind of spotlight and power Armstrong had but the flip side is that it’s easier for him to slip back into a normal life. There was always a soft vulnerable facet to Ullrich that makes it simpler to forgive. Armstrong on the other hand was aggressive in the extreme, like a nasty corporate take-over lawyer.
That Jan Ullrich has finally confessed is hardly even news. That Armstrong has half confessed continues to be a big story.