Julich’s confession a case of bittersweet resolution
Bobby Julich is one of those likeable characters of the peloton: quiet, reserved and full of information on the sport.
He once contended for the Tour de France, finishing third overall at the infamous 1998 Tour.
A strong time triallist, he also won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympic Games and helped his teams win a number of team time trials over his career.
Julich was pigeon-holed as a Grand Tour overall contender from a young age. At the young age of 24, riding for Motorola, he finished ninth overall at the Vuelta a Espana and held the King of the Mountains jersey for half of the race. Including that race, he had five top 20 finishes in Grand Tours.
However we now all know that things were not as they seemed. Julich confessed to doping for two years, beginning in August 1996 and ending in July 1998. It was in this time period that he achieved some of his best Grand Tour results.
He was forced by his then-fiancée (now wife) to quit doping, when she found out through the wife of another pro cyclist, or risk losing his relationship altogether.
The events of the past few months have uncovered a lot of startling evidence, as well as some that was entirely expected.
But Julich’s confession is different. I’d always thought he was a good guy, someone who would have enough of a moral conscience not to get caught up in the doping gambit. Unfortunately, as has been the case over the past few months, my perception was 100% wrong.
However, I can’t fault Bobby for the way that he confessed. Working as a coach and director at Team Sky, Julich had to submit to a mandatory interview with team management to talk about past doping experiences. Any member who admitted to taking, administering or trafficking doping products in the past would be immediately fired and not allowed to work for Sky again in the future.
Julich could quite easily have continued to perpetuate the omerta. While I was a little suspicious, given the teams he had worked for in the past (Motorola, US Postal Service, Team CSC), his nice guy personality had lulled me into a false sense of security.
However, Julich showed that he has got a strong moral conscience and was prepared to limit his own personal ambitions in a bid to make the sport cleaner.
His confession was a brave act and I commend him on coming out in such a public way (he sent the letter not to his team management, but directly to Cyclingnews.com for publishing on their website).
However, one thing is nagging me, something that has nagged me about all of the recent confessions. While it is good that we are cleansing the sport and outing the cheaters of the past, I can’t help wondering whether anyone, Bobby included, would have confessed had the events of the past few months not reached the climax they have.
As mentioned in my previous post on The Roar, this further justifies my scepticism and lost faith in all professional cyclists. How can we learn to trust them again until all those who perpetuated the toxic culture of doping and corruption throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s are thrown from the sport?
When guys who have the perceived integrity of Bobby feel the need to adhere to the omerta until it was no longer feasible, one can only ask: is the professional sport is still truly salvageable?
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