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Cycling on drugs

Posted October. 15, 2012 03:53,   


Jan Ullrich, 40, is a retired German cyclist who won the gold medal in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics. He is, however, better known as an unfortunate competitor under the shadow of the disgraced Lance Armstrong, 41. The American cycling icon won the Tour de France seven times while Ullrich finished runner-up three times from 1999 to 2005. Nevertheless, many people remember Ullrich as a man of true sportsmanship.

In the 2003 Tour de France, Ullrich was second behind Armstrong. In the last leg at Luz Ardiden in the Pyrenees, Armstrong’s handle bar was hooked by a spectator`s bag and he fell with his bicycle. In a surprising moment, Ullrich, who was closely chasing Armstrong, stopped and waited until his competitor got back on his bicycle. As a result, the German fell back 50 seconds in the leg and finished second to the American in the race by 61 seconds.

A few days ago, the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency released a report saying Armstrong had long taken banned substances and managed to go undetected in doping tests. Is Ullrich mad at the news? Unlikely. The German himself was found to use banned drugs in February this year and all of his finishes after 2005 have been stripped. According to the BBC, just one cyclist was found scandal-free and did not take banned drugs among the top three winners of the seven Tour de France races that Armstrong won. That glorious seven-year run was tainted by dope, and that period will go down in history as disgraceful years for cyclists.

Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson, who set a world record of 9.79 seconds in the men’s 100 meters at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics, and American competitor Marion Jones, who claimed gold in both the women’s 100 and 200 meters in the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, were stripped of their medals and banned as athletes after being found to use illicit substances in competition. Baseball`s all-time home run king Barry Bonds was implicated in a doping scandal. Sports fans feel betrayed when historic moments are disgraced like this.

Weekend Section Reporter Min Dong-yong (mindy@donga.com)