Throwback Thursday: Frischknecht Gets 1996 World Championship in May of 2000

 

THOMAS FRISCHKNECHT GETS ’96 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP AFTER JEROME CHIOTTI ADMITS TO USING EPO IN THE RACE

From MBA’s report in May of 2000:  In case you haven’t heard, Jerome Chiotti has officially given up his 1996 World Cross-County Championship. He presented second place rider Thomas Frischknecht with the rainbow jersey and gold medal. Jerome showed a lot of class by willingly doing what he did. You can suspend the guy and you can black-mark him,  but in our book he is one heck of a person for doing what he did. The man has paid a thousand times for making a mistake. He paid the ultimate price by giving up his title. We know he used EPO to win it, so it really wasn’t his, but, nonetheless, he did a great thing. Let’s leave it at that.

Thomas Frischknecht has issued an email regarding the situation. Here it is in full:

In a message dated 5/27/2000 7:29:12 AM Pacific Daylight Time,
Thomas Frischknecht writes:

<< Subj:     1996 world champion
Date: 5/27/2000 7:29:12 AM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Thomas Frischknecht

World Champion!

Another chapter of my career was written on Wednesday, May 24th , 2000.
Jerome Chiotti of France, the 1996 mountain bike world champion invited me to come to his press conference in Paris. The press conference took place right before he had a hearing at the French Cycling Federation regarding his statements he made in an interview in April. In the interview he made a confession saying that he won the world
championship in 1996 because he was doped with EPO.

After a training ride in the morning I jumped on the plane to Paris. Some
French guy with his old 250cc Honda picked me up at the airport in Paris to
race myself through the City to the Hotel Quality (means not a whole lot in
France). About 20 journalists and some TV cameras were already waiting since
I was half an hour late.

Jerome wanted to give me his original rainbow jersey and the gold medal
personally, on free basis, before the federations are taking away his title.
He said that he made the confession on his own will and that it means a lot to
him that he can give me his title on a free basis too. He now wants to repair
the damage he did to me as good as he can.

Jerome was a road racer for Festina when he entered the international
mountain bike scene. Back then, EPO was just a regular thing on the road. He used that method in 1996 to win his first and only big race of his career. He later realized that in mountain biking it’s not the same as on the road and started to feel guilty.

He actually told me already in 1997 on a training ride that for him I was the true world champion. I kind of knew what he wanted to tell me. He then changed to ride clean for the last couple of years. He never won a World
Cup or world championship again but was still very successful. He placed 3rd
on the Olympic course last year in Sydney. With his confession he also wanted to say that he is clean now and stands up for a drug free sport.

What he did four years ago was very wrong! He probably took away the
greatest day in my career. Even though I am world champion now, I missed the emotion of getting the medal at the awards ceremony and hearing the national hymn. I missed the year of being the world champion and I missed the feeling of taking the rainbow jersey out of the gear bag and putting on the race number before each race. I know what I’m talking about. I had this great experience twice, when I was Cyclo-Cross Junior and Amateur World Champion. All this was taken away from me. Still, Jerome’s confession he made and the way he passed over the title shows that Jerome Chiotti has a good character and style. And I truly believe this rider earns our respect.

I was at the press conference for only one hour. After Jerome gave me the
jersey and the medal, I raced back to the airport with the motorcycle to
catch my flight home. With my family and friends I celebrated the title at a
nice restaurant on top of the mountain, where I explored my first mountain
bike rides 13 years ago.

Sure, it would have been nice to win this title four years ago. But I much
rather get it now and keep it proudly for the rest of my life, instead of
winning it the way Jerome did. Finally to get this title after 10 years of
trying means a lot to me. But even more important to me is the fact that
honesty pays off. The story about the 1996 world champion title carries an
important message.

Drugs don’t work in the long term. They are only bad shortcut to success.
It’s not worth it! I hope the young riders and the older ones who still don’t understand will learn something about this. The title is not official yet but soon should be awarded to me by the UCI.

 


 

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