After doping confession: Ullrich in the spotlight: “Life backpack has become lighter”

After doping confession: Ullrich in the spotlight: “Life backpack has become lighter”
After doping confession: Ullrich in the spotlight: “Life backpack has become lighter”

Jan Ullrich has come to terms with his eventful life, first in a documentary and now in a book. It took strength and courage, but it was important on the way back.

Jan Ullrich is particularly looking forward to the trip to Italy. After so many – and sometimes dark – years, finally being able to take part in the Tour de France again, even if only for a few days as a spectator, is a “highlight” for the 50-year-old.

“Cycling still determines my life. It is my passion, my great love,” says the once celebrated and then deeply fallen Tour champion from 1997 in an interview with the German Press Agency.

Before travelling to Tuscany – the tour starts on Saturday in Florence, Italy – Ullrich had to come to terms with the past. In his book “Heaven, Hell and Back to Life”, published on Tuesday, the Rostock native provides deep insights after he had already dealt with his doping period in a documentary in November. “The backpack of life has become lighter,” says Ullrich, who admits that he “fell really, really low” during his life crises. He has learned from that. “That won’t catch up with me anymore,” says the former cycling star. That is why he is sure that he “no longer needs the extremes” that he used to seek.

A life of extremes is documented on 272 pages. Growing up in Papendorf near Rostock, Ullrich reports how his father sometimes ignored him during his childhood (“I was nothing to him”), even beat him after he wet the bed, and how he was plagued by self-doubt. Through sport and his extraordinary talent, Ullrich gained attention and a life with structures that ultimately took him to the top, to “cycling heaven”.

“Horror film” with doping doctor Fuentes

Tour winner, Olympic champion, world champion – Ullrich was everybody’s darling, the pop star on two wheels who captivated millions of people in front of the television every July. Until his world collapsed due to the doping scandal. His connection to doping doctor Eufemiano Fuentes was proven, and he had performed autologous blood transfusions in Spain. It was like “being in a very, very wrong horror film”. “I fell into a hole. A very, very deep hole,” writes Ullrich.

The cycling star (“I fell into a deep depression”) numbed his frustration with alcohol, then with cocaine. Under the influence of alcohol, he had a car accident in May 2014 and then went to rehab. He wanted to start anew with his wife Sara in Mallorca – but it didn’t help. Depression again, alcohol again – and finally the separation from his wife and children. “Sara couldn’t take it anymore. She had to build a protective shell around her heart so that it wouldn’t be completely shattered,” reports Ullrich: “If she didn’t leave now, she would break. She knew that. And I knew it too.”

Finca on Mallorca like “Rockstar Hell”

What followed was a complete crash. Ullrich numbed himself with cocaine, wine and whiskey. His finca became a “rock star hell”, as he writes: “Actors, artists, criminals, rockers, people from the underworld. Everyone was welcome here.” To pay for his cocaine consumption, he once took a sports bag full of money from the bank and emptied it in his bedroom. “Whenever a dealer came or an employee wanted to be paid, I brought him into my bedroom and told him to just help himself,” says Ullrich.

After an argument with his neighbor Til Schweiger, he ended up in prison for a short time, which Ullrich said resembled a “basement hole.” The walls were smeared with feces. “I had never seen anything so disgusting.” Eventually Ullrich returned to Germany, went to rehab and even received support from his former rival Lance Armstrong (“I hugged him”). Ullrich now lives in Merdingen in the Black Forest again. “Perhaps I had to cross all my boundaries at some point just so that I could eventually find my center.”

Ullrich draws lessons from his life

Chapter by chapter, Ullrich reflected on his life and learned the lessons from it. The process of coming to terms with it was “super important” for him, and the positive feedback from people was good. He has burned many bridges in recent years that need to be rebuilt. Ullrich, who occasionally acts as a Eurosport expert during the Tour, is clearly on the right path, even if it took “strength and determination”.

It was only at the weekend that he spoke to cycling president Rudolf Scharping after a long period of silence. “They had spoken about possible joint projects,” reported the former defense minister. Ullrich would also like to make peace with the Tour organizers, for whom he, like Armstrong, is one of the undesirables. “The time has come to say: now we are drawing a line under it – in recognition of the mistakes I have made. I am a Tour de France winner and am part of Tour history. (…) I think it is important to be open to a conversation,” says Ullrich. Perhaps the opportunity will arise in Italy.

Source: Stern

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