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Jan Ullrich: The Best There Never Was

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Now the two systems are different in obvious ways that a book review doesn’t need to cover, readers can reflect on this. Ullrich himself isn’t interviewed but that might not be any loss, one of the reasons for his troubles with the media over the years stems from him just not being that articulate in set-piece interviews.

As I also said, it may well depend on the review, but just check the insisted presence of “DDR” above.I guess I’d need to read it but frankly from what inrng reports the focus on DDR doping and so on looks laughable at best, especially when speaking of a prominent Telekom athlete. If you want I could also name several doped ex-athletes in cycling and beyond who get moral and financial support today… without having ever had any relation with DDR, imagine that. On a much smaller level the Tour monopolises attention such that when a cycling biography comes out in June, along comes the race with all its distractions.

Even when he didn’t win, there was always the seasonal targeting of the Tour with his preparation getting more intense the closer the race got. I got the impression that the author went to great lengths to not make this book an “East Vs West” narrative. He went on to become Germany’s first ever Tour winner, storming to victory in that edition by almost ten minutes, a result that was greeted as an era-defining changing of the guard. For many it was a vision of the future: if he could climb like this, win the time trials, and arrive in Paris with nine minutes on his next rival all at the age of 23 – precocious in those days – then the Tour seemed to belong to him.It’s “the same USADA” (not exactly *the same* of course), covering up doped Olympic medallists or catching Lance. Of course, only Fuentes has been *proven*, but just as Friebe “explores” the DDR leit motiv, why don’t explore this also rather promising subject, given that Ullrich had quite much a stronger relation with the Telekom team than with the DDR, be it only due to mere chronology? Jan Ullrich’s career was part of this, his first win suggested he’d dominate the Tour, and with it the sport for years to come.

There’s plenty of stuff about Telekom and Fuentes and you certainly don’t come away thinking “if only he’d been born in the West”. Note the disproportionate relative weight of whatever *supposed* doping Ullrich *might* have experienced when 13 to 15 in the DDR, and… the huge rest of his sporting experience – including lots of proven facts about him himself and his team – but now we’re *even* speaking “doping in the DDR”: that explains better than anything else what I’m trying to communicate about perspective, stereotypes, idées reçues and so on. Whether through early problems like weight gain or the deep personal problems of recent years, at times there’s a temptation as a reader to place Ullrich onto an imaginary psychologist’s couch and diagnose his issues through the pages, especially as the intensity of the book seems to grow with recent events where Ullrich goes from trying to win a bicycle race to coping with life. There’s injury, drink-driving, a doping ban following an out-of-competition test after a nightclub and the slide begins.

So awesome was his display that it sent shockwaves throughout the world of cycling and invited headlines such as L’Equipe’s ‘The New Giant’. This is an institutional level of financial and moral support that I’ve not seen in pro sports whether it’s cycling, tennis, athletics etc, but for many reasons this is not going to happen, because it’s not the state that’s perpetuating it, because some victims because wealthy through it and so on.

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