$0.02: Ullrich ‘not bitter’? Sell it elsewhere, Jan
Aside from when he said, “I am not bitter,” Jan Ullrich didn’t much try to cloak his anger when he retired on Monday.He blamed others for dragging him into the doping mess, said his “life as a cyclist collapsed” the day he was banned from the Tour de France last summer.Part of me felt sorry for him.Ullrich, you might recall, is one of the great cyclists in modern history, simply going off results. He won the Tour de France in 1997 and took second five other times, third once, fourth once and finished with seven career stage wins. He also won the Vuelta in 1999, and captured a gold and silver medal in the 2000 Olympic road race and time trial, respectively.For a long stretch, it was said that he enjoyed a higher profile in his native Germany than his countryman Michael Schumacher, considered by many the world’s most recognizable athlete.
And yet now, at age 33, Ullrich will walk away – even though he claimed seven teams had offered him opportunities to race this season. (You have to wonder what sort of terms were involved in those offers, considering there would be no better way for Ullrich to prove his innocence than to return with fury and win while testing clean.)Legacies are fun to debate, but in Ullrich’s case, unfortunately for him, it seems destined to include the words “runner-up” and “doping” more than the words “champion” and “honest.”As I’ve written many times before, the shame in the performance-enhancing drugs age is that we, the little people known as fans, will never know the truth. We’ll just be left to guess and surmise, based on the facts available to us, case by case, rumor by rumor.And there was one hell of a rumor going around the world that Jan Ullrich cheated. …Chapter 36,098 in the hatred fest between the Avs and Red Wings: Detroit traded for Todd Bertuzzi on Tuesday. …
Upon hearing all the hoopla surrounding Rulon Gardner’s latest wacky survival story (he swam through frigid waters for an hour after his plane crashed last weekend, then endured a night of exposure before being rescued the next morning), I thought back to the day, three summers ago, when I spent an hour with him at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.It wasn’t the article that came from our meeting, but rather a single quote. I asked him why, as the defending gold medalist with the Athens Olympics just a few weeks away, he continued to drive his Dodge Viper and ride his Harley Road King so damn fast.”Some people say I have a death wish,” Rulon said. “I don’t think I have a death wish. The good Lord’s given me a chance to live, and I wanna go live my life to the fullest.” …Headline of the Week, from SI.com: “Britain on the hunt for tall Olympic athletes.” Apparently the UK is trying to find young adults to fill their squads in handball, rowing and volleyball. Doesn’t matter if you’ve never played the sport; you must only be between 16 and 25 and over 6-foot-3 (men) or 5-foot-11 (women).”We have a unique opportunity to pluck individuals from relative sporting obscurity and provide the opportunity of a sporting lifetime,” said Chelsea Warr, a talent scout for UK Sport.
Fine. But weird. …LeBron James’ girlfriend is reportedly due with their second child in June. Their first is named LeBron James Jr. Can you imagine if that was your name? …In parting, some idiot paid $2.35 million for a baseball card the other day.Devon O’Neil can be contacted at (970) 668-4633, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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