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Julich is collateral damage in longtime Armstrong rivalry

By Andrew Hood • Published
Bobby Julich may have done something last week that Lance Armstrong never will: he told the truth. Pascal Pavani | AFP

Suddenly, Julich was back on his winning ways, claiming his first pro victory since 1997 with winning a time trial at the Vuelta al País Vasco. He later won bronze — since bumped to silver following the doping confession of gold medalist Tyler Hamilton — in the Olympic time trial in Athens. In 2005, he won Paris-Nice, Critérium International and the Eneco Tour.

The next season, however, was demoralizing for the sport as the Operación Puerto investigation revealed that nothing much had changed at all since Festina. At the heart of the doping scandal were Julich’s teammates Jörg Jaksche and Ivan Basso. While Basso never quite told the full story, Jaksche dished on everything.

On Thursday, however, Julich stopped short of saying he saw anything suspicious during his time at CSC, something that some find hard to believe, but Julich is sticking to his story that he never resumed doping after turning his back on it in July 1998.

“At no time was I offered or did I receive any sort of blood manipulation nor did I witness any systematic doping within the team,” Julich wrote. “I found that I could compete without it and my results during that period were achieved clean. That being said, what happened before the 2006 Tour de France changed my outlook into what we all thought we were buying into when we joined that team.”

Julich’s exasperation with Armstrong reached its nadir in 2008, when Julich announced his retirement from professional cycling. A few hours later, it was revealed that Armstrong would be returning to professional cycling for the 2009 season.

No one was writing about Bobby J’s retirement. The story again was all about Armstrong.

After retiring, Julich stayed on with Riis in 2009 in a newly created position as technical director, quietly working behind the scenes, helping with training schedules and logistics.

In 2011, he got what he called his “dream job” with Sky, as one of the team’s four performance coaches.

Julich talked enthusiastically about the job in an interview with VeloNews during the 2012 Vuelta a España, saying he worked directly with riders such as Richie Porte.

Julich sat with VeloNews for nearly 30 minutes on an outside deck along Spain’s spectacular northern coast, explaining in detail how Sky trains and how the team painstakingly ensures that riders can race clean and encourage and foster that environment.

“I know for a fact those guys are clean,” Julich said. “The sport has changed so much since the days I was starting my career. I almost envy these guys coming in now, because they can race clean and there’s no question about how to ride.”

Julich was proud of his work with Sky and was excited about new riders coming on board, namely Americans Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell.

The Armstrong doping case was just about to explode, but before VeloNews could ask about what he thought of his former rival, a scheduled interview with Chris Froome took priority.

“There are a lot of interesting things to talk about these days, huh?” Julich said as he walked away.

The earthquake caused by USADA’s searing case file continues to ripple across the peloton, forcing Sky to adopt a Draconian zero-tolerance policy in direct response to the Armstrong scandal.

Perhaps without the fallout from the Armstrong doping scandal, Sky could have taken a different tact in dealing with past indiscretions of riders and staff who were confronted with ethical choices a decade ago or more. Unfortunately for Julich, he’s paying a very high price for the choices he made a long time ago.

And even Julich’s public admission of doping is being overwhelmed by the churning headlines fueled by the Armstrong scandal. What would have otherwise been a huge story about one of America’s most successful pros admitting to doping is now being lost in the endless flood of other salacious headlines.

By admitting his past errors, however, Julich perhaps gets the last word and has done something that Armstrong looks like he will never: tell the truth.

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