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By Andrew Hood
Bobby Julich (CSC) says cycling’s peloton gets the message when it comes to the doping issue.
The 36-year-old veteran believes that the majority of riders support clean racing and realize the credibility gap facing the sport as it enters a decisive season. That’s not to say everyone is happy with new demands made by anti-doping agencies.
Julich spoke for many of his peers when he expressed frustration about how controls sometimes encroach on personal privacy issues. VeloNews caught up with Julich before the start of Sunday’s final stage at Paris-Nice, here are excerpts of the interview:
VN: This Paris-Nice seems different, can you see any evidence in the racing that indicates the peloton is cleaner?
BJ: Oh, I don’t know, but I must say yesterday, for the first time in my career, I went to control and not only had to do a urine test, but blood and hair as well, and I’ve never felt so violated in my life. I know we’re making these efforts and I know it’s up to everyone to do it, but until it happens to you, you don’t realize the sacrifices we have to make to really make this sport more transparent and more honest. I hope that the public understands that. We are doing a lot and it’s no fun. There was a story about a guy who was at the funeral of his dead son and got controlled and they wouldn’t let him. It’s going a little bit too far.
As far as the racing goes, the racing has been fantastic. That hasn’t even been a topic, because we’ve had bigger problems to deal with as far as the ASO and UCI are concerned, and CSC deciding not to continue as a sponsor. The racing has been great, and far as that whole thing, I put that out of my head back in 2004, when I came to this team, because I cannot be making excuses of why I am not riding my bike fast. I can’t be looking at the other guy and wondering what he’s doing. I need to concentrate on what I’m doing. I think the racing has been great. It’s unpredictable, you see changes, but you still see the same guys up there. When you have good days and you have bad days, that’s not the reason why.
VN: That’s the French agency running the controls? They were demanding the hair samples, too?
BJ: Yes, whoever’s running the controls here (note – it’s France’s national anti-doping agency) because the UCI is not here. I must say, it was bizarre. Getting scalped was a first for me. Hair? I don’t understand hair. The blood after the race is bizarre. That’s the first time I’ve ever been blood-controlled after a race. I was just sitting there in shock. It took so much longer to get through. If that’s what we have to do, that’s what we’ll have to do. It’s starting to feel like, especially about that guy with his son, do I want to be in a sport that’s as strict with this sort of stuff when any other sports are just turning their head to the issue.
VN:Do you believe that the peloton’s received the message that doping is just too risky for the sport?
BJ: They better have! If they didn’t get it in ’98 or in ’99 or all the way to last year, we have no sport. I thought everyone got it in ’98, evidently not. You just have to hope and pray. They’re closing the doors on every possible opportunity for guys to cheat and that’s the way it should be. Also, you have to be able to live your life without having to look over your shoulder and see some little guy running after you with a pee cup.
VN:Will the biological passport help?
BJ: I think that’s a good idea. That’s basically what we’ve done at CSC. I think that’s fantastic and that’s the way we can establish a baseline for people, but they have to target the people who are suspicious and who are prone to that risk. I don’t think a guy who isn’t even going to the Tour, you shouldn’t have to control him five times in out-of-competition tests a month before the Tour. Focus on the guys who you need to focus on and leave the other guys alone. They know who are the risky cases and who are not. They have our blood and urine for years. I don’t think this biological passport is anything new because we’ve had to give our blood and urine to the UCI four times a year for four, five years already anyway.
VN:How damaging would a big doping scandal be right now for the sport? The past two Tours have been overwhelmed by scandal, can the sport handle another one?
BJ: It would be over, in my opinion. If anyone is stupid enough to do it, they should be thrown into the middle of ring and let all the riders go at him, because there’s no excuse. They are not only playing with their career and the future of their team, but the entire sport as a whole. That’s just not right and hopefully everyone will wise up and this temptation will go away and we’ll have best, cleanest sport on the planet.
VN:Is it hard to race in face of the scandals, have you ever lost any motivation or morale to race after the recent scandals?
BJ: Of course, with what happened with Ivan (Basso) was tough, because he was my friend, and what happened with Vino (Alexander Vinokourov) was tough because he was my friend. They’re not just these nameless faces, these jerks that I don’t even know. It’s tougher to deal with because maybe there are some violation of trust issues. People are human, they make mistakes, you have to forgive and forget. There’s no more space for error in our situation. We’re on our last leg. We need new sponsors in the sport, we need a new image in the sport. If anything else happens, I could see a big, big problem for cycling.
For me, it’s not the end of the world, I’m almost done with the sport, but for the young guys just starting out, like the Gesinks and the Andy Schlecks, these great huge talents. It’s them that we’re doing this for. It’s not for guys like me who are going to retire in a few years. It’s all for the future. I’m a fan of cycling. I’m want to be watching Gesink and Andy Schleck battling it out in the Tour de France for years to come when I weigh 5kg more, sitting on my couch and drinking a beer. I just love bike racing. I hope it’s there and I hope we get to see that.
VN: Has cycling done enough to prove to the skeptics in the media and the public that cycling is trying to clean up its act?
BJ: We’ve done that. There’s nothing more we could do. We were joking on the bus, what are they going to ask for next time, sperm? That’s all about the only thing we haven’t given them. We, as riders, we know what the situation is. We’re willing to fill out our whereabouts and get pulled away from personal days to give the sport a better image. There’s not any more we can do. It’s up to the teams and sponsors and ASO and the UCI to make sure that things run more smoothly now.