A Fallen Idol, not.

Johan MuseeuwJohan Museeuwjohan.jpg

Worlds, Lisbon. greenjersey photo

I have received a number of comments that I have been unduly harsh about Johan Museeuw. I don’t agree and as evidence of my admiration for the Lion of Flanders I re-print below a short piece that I placed on a club website more than three years ago.

I suppose we all suspected that there was more to Johan Museeuw’s preparation than endless kilometres across the flatlands of West Flanders but it was still a shock to discover that the Lion of Flanders was under investigation for epo use. He was in Hamilton, Ontario last October but instead of being an outside chance for a second rainbow jersey he was reduced to hanging around the hotel trying to avoid the attention of your correspondent. The Belgian Federation had asked him to step down for the good of the sport which sounded both hypocritical and ominous.

Come this spring it all seemed to be behind him and he stopped racing at a time of his own choosing after the Spring Classics but the problem hadn’t gone away. Johan is now a convicted doper and cheat and we are supposed to despise him
and his stolen victories. But I can’t. To me Johan is still a hero and his epic wins are not diminished. Maybe if he didn’t emit such an aura of quiet dignity. Maybe if he wasn’t so close to his family and his Flemish roots. Maybe if he had moved to Monaco or Switzerland to avoid the rapacious Belgian taxman. Maybe if he had moved to Tuscany to train in the sunshine. Maybe then I would think less of him, but he didn’t, he just carried on stacking in the miles. Whether battling into a gale off the North Sea or riding at sixty kms per hour behind his father’s moped he was the perfect role model for all of us who know the pain and joy of bike racing.

I know it’s not the thing to be soft on doping or the causes of doping but in the absence of that mythical level playing field Johan’s still The Man.

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