The board of the German Cycling Federation (BDR) has revoked the suspensions of Jens Lehmann andDaniel Becke, allowing the two star pursuiters to try for this year’s OlympicGames in Athens.
The two were suspended in August of last year after they became embroiledin a team selection battle that ultimately resulted in the withdrawal ofthe once-powerful German team pursuit squad from the world championshipsin Stuttgart (see “Germanpursuit squad collapses before it hits track”).
BDR president Sylvia Schenk, who had initially taken a hard line against the riders, asked the organization’s board torevoke the suspensions and give the two men “a chance to prove themselves”by trying out for the Olympics.
Schenk had initially suspended Lehmann until December 31 of this yearand Becke until August. Lehman, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, was give the more severe suspension because he was regarded as something of a “ringleader” in the revolt.The dispute was triggered when the then-35-year-old Lehmann finished second in the individual pursuit in Germany’s world’s trials but was, nonetheless, replaced by another double Olympic champion, Robert Bartko, who had turned in a slower time.
The German pursuit squad had been expected to mount a strong challenge for the world title, having been the first four-man team in history to break the four-minute barrier. Instead, the German federation was embarrassed on its home court by the collapse of the team. Australia not only won the world title, but set a new world record in the process (see “Timedto perfection: Aussies smash team pursuit record.”)
The panel’s decision may have been driven more by pragmatism than byaltruism, since many observers had written off Germany’s chances to fielda serious team effort in Athens and predicted that it could take more thana decade to rebuild its team pursuit program. If the move proves successful, it could set up an exciting three-way battle for Olympic gold among Australia, Germany and the British team that finished second in Stuttgart.
German federation coach Burkhard Bremer said the burden of proof nowrests on the two riders.
“It’s now up to Lehmann and Becke themselves to decide if – and in whatcapacity – either of them will be part of the team,” Bremer said. “Thebottom line is that they are both very talented riders, but they also haveto prove willing to ride as members of a team. Frankly, I am interestedto see if they are aware of how their behavior affected the other members ofthe team last August.”