“The doctor comes and says he has a secret recipe” | Relief

Guillermo Garcia

It’s best to start from the beginning. To explain the figure of Jan Ullrich through the eyes of a German who grew up watching him climb the Alpe d’Huez, fighting alongside Lance Armstrong, one must do so from a place of admiration. The one who felt everything for the transcendental cyclist, who put pedal sport at the forefront and made us dream of great feats on the slopes of the Alps and Pyrenees. Until everything exploded.

One of those children who grew up admiring the Rostock cyclist was Toni Kroos. The Real Madrid player took advantage of the presentation of a documentary about Ullrich’s life to invite him to “Einfach mal Luppen”, a podcast he runs with his brother and in which he managed to persuade the 1997 Tour champion to talk about the most difficult moments in your life. But also to restore in memory the things he left on the road.

The conversation begins precisely from this beginning, with Ulrich recalls the figure of his father, who left the family when he was only three years old, the influence of his brother in becoming a professional cyclist, and the difficulties of his mother. to help you financially in your endeavors. An elite athlete who won two Grand Tours (the Tour in 1997 and the Vuelta a España a year later) and two Olympic medals, but was ultimately buried by his demons.

A time that almost cost him his life, as documented in a documentary about his life released last December and which he has now confirmed during his visit to Kroos. “In 2018 I was at my lowest. I lost almost everything and almost my life. It was really extreme. That’s when I decided I had to change everything,” recalls Ulrich, who also acknowledges the reasons that led him to open up. after many years of silence. . “I decided not to say anything, but I was building a different life for myself, and it didn’t work. “So in that very low moment I decided I had to share this with people, I broke down all the barriers I had built around myself.”

“In 2018 I was at my lowest. I lost almost everything and almost my life. It was really extreme. That’s when I decided I had to change everything.”

Jan Ulrich

Ulrich, who was rehabilitated from cocaine addiction in a clinic in Mallorca, points to those who forced him out of the hole he was in. “I was depressed,” admits the former runner, who also admits his financial problems led him into a hole from which he appears to have finally climbed out. “I had to stop what I was doing. I had to lead a normal life again. I thought I had failed completely, but I told myself that I couldn’t continue like this because I had four children. They motivated me because I had completely given up on myself. Without my children, I probably wouldn’t be here today.”

What brought Ulrich to this situation? First of all, the pressure that an elite athlete experiences, as he himself remembers. “It seemed like I had to win every race because I won the hardest one. I couldn’t pass out because of the pressure. mass media. When I went on vacation, I was not calm. I couldn’t go back to normal life. I needed to rest, but I had events with sponsors, advertising, interviews… I had pressure that I felt was excessive.”

Another explanation for his fall is doping. A common practice in the late 90s and the beginning of the new century, as he himself admitted in a Real Madrid player’s podcast. “Then the doctor comes and says he has a secret recipe with immediate effect,” the German recalls of how he began using EPO.

Widespread practice in the platoon, as he himself notes: “Today doping has been pushed out. Everyone knows what it is, but then it was not like that. Now I feel guilty, but then it could not be controlled.” This is not the first time Ullrich has spoken about systemic doping in the peloton and erythropoietin consumption. “It was on the list of prohibited substances, but it could not be controlled. At that time it was not a crime, but an equal opportunity. You didn’t feel guilty because you knew the people you were fighting against used a lot of them too. You think you’re not doing anything wrong.”

“I lost everything I built over decades: friends, family, contacts… Everyone continues to live their life when you fall, and it causes great harm.”

Everything changed after the scandal with the Festina team in 1998. “It was the first time cyclists had to spend the night in jail,” adds the rider from Rostock, before recalling how he went from idol to criminal overnight. “Suddenly you lose everything. I lost everything I had built over decades: friends, family, contacts… Everyone continues to live their life when you fall, and it causes a lot of damage. You wonder why you are like this if you have done nothing different than what so many others have done. Suddenly they drop you and you have to get up on your own. You no longer talk to friends, but to lawyers. “You are lost and cannot defend yourself.”

Today it all seems like a bad dream from which Ulrich is trying to wake up. He does it in the company of his children, his friend Lance Armstrong and his own experiences, which he has recounted now in a documentary and now in direct conversation with the increasingly established Kroos on the other side of the microphone.

Guillermo Garcia

Passionate about basketball since childhood, Guillermo Garcia managed to make basketball his profession. Graduate of the Humanities from Carlos III University and Master’s Degree

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