On Thursday Team Sky released race coach Bobby Julich after he disclosed to them that he’d taken performance enhancing drugs during a period of his racing career. The American is the first team member to fall foul of Sky’s renewed zero tolerance doping policy after it was announced eight days ago.
Julich was a pro between 1992-2008, the highlight of his career being his third place finish in the Festina affair marred 1998 Tour de France, behind Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich. But in a full confession published on Cyclingnews.com, he revealed that he used EPO to achieve that result.
“I made the decision to use EPO several times from August 1996 until July of 1998,” wrote Julich. “Those days were very different from today, but it was not a decision that I reached easily. I knew that it was wrong, but over those two years, the attitude surrounding the use of EPO in the peloton was so casual and accepted that I personally lost perspective of the gravity of the situation.
“During the 1998 Tour, my fiancé (now wife) found out what was going on from another rider’s wife. She confronted me on it and it was one of the most dreadful experiences of my life. She was never a part of this and I put her in a very difficult situation. She told me right then and there that if it ever happened again, our relationship would be over. That was motivation enough and I knew I had to stop.
“The Festina Affair changed everything for me. It reaffirmed for me that this was not only wrong and bad for my health, but also illegal with heavy consequences. In a strange way, I was relieved that the Festina Affair happened and was personally convinced doping would stop and that this problem would be over. I quickly realised how wrong I was.”
Julich was forced to confront his past this week and it cost him his job at Team Sky
Julich rode for Team CSC between 2004-2008 where he enjoyed a career renaissance under the guidance of Bjarne Riis.
“I know that much has been said about what allegedly happened there and about the man that is the figure head of that team. I am not going to defend him as a person but rather as an organisation and what it did for me personally.
“This organisation gave me two things that no illegal substance could ever truly provide. It gave me back my self-respect and my self-confidence. That was all that I needed to perform at the highest level. This was my personal experience. 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. 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 began working with Team Sky in 2011 and praised their commitment to clean cycling. “I hope that everyone understands that this team is special. Dave Brailsford had never competed in the sport at the highest level, and he set out to do things differently. I am extremely honored to have been a member of this team and a small part of the success that they achieved during this period.
“I apologise to everyone, especially those associated with Team Sky for my past indiscretions. I made some poor decisions and have paid and will pay a huge price. I am taking responsibility, at the expense of not being able to finish what I started, with some of the best people that I have ever been associated with.
“To this new generation of young riders; I hope that you will learn from the past and avoid the mistakes many of us have made. It is up to your generation to insure that the issues of the past do not affect your future. I am truly sorry that you all are dealing with something that you had no part in creating.”