Maniacs and Martyrs

There was an American cyclist Named Bobby Julich.  He struggled during his early career, at times paying his own way to American races because he had no team and no sponsor.  Bobby finally caught on with European race teams for his considerable talent, and had a good run for himself, finishing third overall in the Tour in 1998, winning the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics ITT (upgraded from bronze when Tyler Hamilton confessed to doping), and capturing the tough early spring Paris-Nice stage race (the “Race to the Sun”), the first American to do so.  Bobby won TDF stages, and he was a strong support rider in his career on a range of respectable European teams such as CSC and Deutsche Telekom.  After his career, Bobby continued to work in the sport he loved as a ‘coach,” most currently with the British Team Sky.

Today Bobby confessed that he used performance enhancing drugs from 1996 to 1998.  During that time he rode for Motorola and Cofidis.  He says that when his fiancée (now wife) got wind of his using, during the year of the Festina scandal, he quit.  As a result of this confession, he has just lost his job with Team Sky.

I don’t know whether the atmosphere surrounding professional cycling today reminds me more of Salem from 1692 to 1693 or Paris from 1793 to 1794.  Witch Trials or Reign of Terror, take your pick.  Is Team Sky really saying that their morals are so pure and sacrosanct that they cannot abide have a self-confessed drug user on their staff even when he saw the error of his ways and quit using fifteen years ago?  That’s far past the statute of limitations.  It does a disservice to others contemplating confession, to the impulse to be honest, to pure common sense.  It is rumored that Lance Armstrong may lose his recent marathon results, none of which were in the top 200 finishers of the event.  As somebody else said on Facebook today, what’s next?  Will he lose his high school diploma?

A person like Julich has more at stake than Lance.  He has behaved more honorably twice, by renouncing doping before many of his his major successes, and confessing fully.  But the frenzy sweeping cycling sports these days has no logic, only hysteria.  That mindless, emotionally fragile, morally vacuous but viscerally charged emotion sweeps all before it.  Punish Lance if you must.  But for the sake of all that is decent and fair-minded, do not crush the likes of Bobby Julich, who has worked hard, achieved a decent career through perseverance, grit, and moral growth.  The sport should want to find and hire all the Julich types it can.  Ruining them can only be described as an immoral, insane, miscarriage of justice.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.

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