Janez Brajkovic Q&A: Armstrong, doping, bulimia and more

By @pmpalermo

Janez Brajkovič was one of the most talented riders of his generation. Now aged 36 he’s back in cycling after serving a doping ban, and he still has a lot to prove. The former winner of the Criterium du Dauphiné is hopeful of a return to a bigger team, whether that’s on or off the bike.

03-09-2006: Vuelta a Espana, Stage 9 – Janez Brajkovic, Discovery in the golden leaders jersey. (Photo by Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images)

You are back and racing with Adria Mobil. Are you looking forward beyond 2020? With Adria?

Well, we’ll see what happens. I’ve been through some rough times, and as you can see, I don’t give up easily.

Do you have the level required to jump back to the World Tour?

Yes. It sounds arrogant, but my condition was never ever a problem. It was always my unconscious mind that wanted very different things. It would take a whole other interview to understand it, but for now, it’s enough to know physically I’m probably better than I ever was. I’m not young anymore, but one advantage I have is starting with cycling and sport at 18.

Are you healthy and fit after your eating disorder? Don´t you think it’s something you could help with as a staff member of a team in the future?

Yes, I’m healthier and fitter than I ever was. Regarding helping others, that’s my goal, but I also know that teams are not ready to deal with this yet. It’s easier to ignore it and pretend it’s not happening on their team.

You had very bad times as a cyclist…why do you want to come back?

Because I don’t want to live life on others’ terms. I want to live my life, do what I dream of. I know what I’m capable of, I know what I love and what I want to do. That’s why I’m doing this. It’s not to prove to others what I can do, but to prove to myself, to be happy for me, not others.

You´re 36 years old and started with Armstrong´s Discovery. How was that experience?

This is a question, that many won’t like the answer to, because many know only the things the media told them about Lance. Some were hurt badly by him, and have every right to be angry with him. Some of those can’t, and won’t forgive him, but my experience with Lance was good. He was the only leader who genuinely cared about the riders, his riders. I raced with many big riders, none of them comes close to him in regards taking care of the team. He’s always been honest and good to me, I’m not gonna say we were best buddies, but he cared. On the other side when I fu..ed up, he made that clear to me. There was no hypocrisy, only honest talk.

Did you dope while there or after in your career?

That’s a question I won’t answer. Not because I didn’t, but because I know there’s nothing productive coming out of this question. You know I tested positive. For people it doesn’t matter intentional or not. The fact is I was suspended….So technically yes…. It’s a rather uncomfortable question, and it’s ok to ask. If you want to get the truth, you need to ask tough questions. It’s like if I asked you: have you ever cheated on your wife? Evaded paying tax? Lied to your employer? Would that make you comfortable?

Did you see something while you raced under Bruyneel´s teams? Or any other teams…

I saw a person who was like my father. It was a person who saved 6 years of my life, my career. People who were the most protective are also the people who were banned for life…Johan, Pedro Celaya.

Related to previous one: it’s hard to believe that main GC riders doped and no one saw anything…

If you’re living in an environment where being beaten is everyday’s practice for years, it becomes “normal” doesn’t it?

You fought for the GC of many Grand Tours: did you have legs for more? It looked like that when started you career…

I had the legs, I didn’t have the mind. Unconsciously, I believed, I still believe I don’t deserve it. This is changing now though.

Do you think or know for sure that cycling is cleaner than 15 years ago?

Nothing is sure. And what I think or believe doesn’t matter. Let’s take caffeine for example. Is it doping? No. But we know that some people with certain polymorphisms, get ergogenic effects, some don’t, and some actually perform worse.

So, what substances can qualify as doping? It has to be performance enhancing, it must be immoral, and it has to be dangerous for health. Caffeine ticks all the boxes. High doses can be lethal, it’s not moral if I get slower and my friend gets faster after using it…. Or paracetamol. Taking 4g per day can be lethal…Yet it’s widely used in sport. Nsaids as well…. On one side they’re trying to protect our health, on other they see riders being hypogonadal, depressed, with eating disorders, anaemic, and let it slide.

If a WT team brings you back what can you do for them?

First of all, it’s very hard to believe there will be many teams interested. After all, I have a black stain on my face. Secondly, they are not comfortable dealing with mental issues of their riders, because they don’t know how, and it scares the shit out of them. I know how to, and I have an idea how to fix or at least start to fix these problems. I can still be of value for a team, on the bike and off the bike.

Pablo Martín Palermo

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3 thoughts on “Janez Brajkovic Q&A: Armstrong, doping, bulimia and more

  1. Janez seems like a good dude, any interaction I’ve had with him on Twitter has been good even if we don’t agree. It’s a rare case I actually believe a athlete not taking a banned substance on purpose. He is clearly smart and if he wanted to dope he probably would know how to avoid a positive.

  2. Le gusta mucho hablar de moralidad. Que diga si es moral decir que tienes bulimia solo como excusa para tu positivo. Además se cree bueno y apenas ha ganado algo en su vida. Para mí este individuo encarna muchas de las cosas despreciables del deporte profesional.

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