Saturday, February 13, 2010

UPDATED: Bernhard Kohl - from KOM to Retail

As Hedwig Kröner reports for CyclingNews.com, Bernhard Kohl, who confessed to doping during a career that saw him reach the final podium in the 2008 Tour de France while boosting with CERA, recently opened a bike shop in Vienna, Austria. Kohl started following me on Twitter just before the opening of Fitstore 24 - Bikepalast Kohl, and if it wasn't for the automatic email notice I received when he listed me, I probably wouldn't be writing about Kohl now. His success in the '08 Tour included winning the KOM competition, but it came at a moment for me when I was still very much not interested in riding my bike (much less following the Tour!) and subsequently didn't have any emotion invested in the Austrian. So I wasn't particularly happy for him, but nor was I crushed when news of the positive test came out.

While I was aware of the involvement of his former manager in the doping scheme, and winced at the harsh treatment dealt Kohl by less sympathetic fans and pundits, it wasn't until I read a forum post where Kohl was mocked for becoming a shopkeeper after having nearly won the Tour de France that I devoted any reading time to the guy. I find the braying of Mark Cavendish and others to be off-putting at times, and don't see how their attempts to ostracize riders who've served doping sanctions but are returning to cycling does anything to encourage other dopers to come forward with information that could fight the system. I also found the personal attacks on Kohl and the disparaging comments about his opening the bike shop to be offensive. After all, the guy simply got caught doing what many riders have done and still do (without testing positive, of course), fessed up, did his time and chose not to return to racing.

Maybe he thought he would have the same difficulty finding a team as Michael Rasmussen, or maybe he worried that he simply wouldn't be competitive enough without some form of blood manipulation. Regardless, Kohl made the gut-wrenching decision not to attempt a comeback. No one who hasn't been there can truly understand the horror one feels when forced to accept the reality that racing - such a major part of most cyclists' lives - will no longer form an active component of their identity. It's atomizing, and a punishment infinitely worse than a two-year ban given to a younger rider who has time to restart his career and carry-on after serving a sanction.

The example set by Floyd Landis last year could change the equation somewhat. To go from Tour de France WINNER to struggling domestic pro being assessed $20 fines for mid-race littering is a helluva step-down. Maybe Kohl is counting his lucky stars that he didn't get back on the bike. [Note: I couldn't find a link to the results sheet that listed Landis's placing and the fine, nor do I remember the event date - if anyone can help out, please leave a comment.] Here is a link to the communique detailing Landis's littering fine.

So, in reading Kohl's response to the following question from the interview with ORF.at, I couldn't help but smile for the new shopkeeper, while at the same time I lamented the lack of news on a 2010 contract for Landis. Good luck to both men!

ORF.at: What do you feel at the thought of the new cycling season?

Kohl: That's a different life. It was beautiful, but now I have new goals. Luckily I have the gift of being able to concentrate on new goals with the utmost dedication. And it gives me great pleasure. If it were not so, today I would probably cry, sit there and I wish to once again allowed to ride on bicycle races. But now I'm satisfied.

I'm glad he can say he's satisfied, and isn't dead like too many others. Read the complete interview with Bernhard Kohl here.


UPDATE: I just saw that Twisted Spoke dedicated some column inches to Mr. Kohl and his bike shop. Great quote:  

"First, we’re happy for Bernhard Kohl in his post EPO life stage as a bike shop owner. He’s moved on, made amends, spoke honestly of his mistakes and most importantly, relocated his soul. Which makes the whole face-in-mirror routine a lot more fun."

And writing like Matt Walsh's makes reading about ex-dopers a lot more fun, too. So give TS a whirl, here.

2 comments:

  1. http://www.mbsef.org/_files/File/2009%20CCC%20Communique'%203.pdf

    Cascade Classic

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