It was a summer that went down in German sports history. 25 years ago, Jan Ullrich triumphed in the Tour de France. Born in Rostock, he was the first and is still the only German to win the road bike race.
On the occasion of the anniversary, ARD looks back on Ullrich’s life to date with the five-part documentary series “Being Jan Ullrich”. Ullrich’s former permanent rival Lance Armstrong (50) also has his say.
“He scared me like no other. This man made me get up early. He changed my life. He had more talent,” says Armstrong. After Ullrich was later convicted of doping, he fell into a crisis, including drug abuse and alcohol problems. In 2018 he experienced the low point, was first arrested in Mallorca, a little later in Germany and went to a rehab clinic.
Armstrong visited Ullrich. Armstrong reports on Ullrich’s addiction problems after the end of his career: “He didn’t know I was coming, I didn’t know where I was going. I saw a man in a place like no human being had before. We all know some crazy friends. But I hadn’t seen anyone in that condition.” Armstrong continued, “He was bedridden, unconscious. It was the worst of all.”
The first episode of the documentary also tells of the difficult family circumstances that Ullrich was exposed to as a child. His biographer Hagen Boßdorf reports on violence: “Jan Ullrich comes from a very humble background, the father no longer played a role early on. Violence played a role in the family, also against the mother, which Jan noticed.”
Peter Becker, Ullrich’s former coach, says: “Jan’s father was a physical giant. At that time he was a speed skater, a bricklayer by trade, but of course also a woodpecker. Jan told me that himself. And he hit the kids. He also hit his mother and he once hit Jan so badly that he got a laceration on his head – Jan still has that (scar, ed.) to this day.”
Armstrong hopes that Ullrich will remain stable: “Jan has children. They should grow up as Jan Ullrich’s children and be proud to be his children. Jan is stable, sticks to his specifications and looks good. But there is still a long way to go.”
The documentary series can be seen in the ARD media library, the film of the same name will be shown on July 2nd after the end of the second stage of this year’s Tour de France, which starts in Copenhagen on July 1st, around 5:20 p.m. on the first.