Now that we are 17 months after the fact, lets pause for a minute and think about who was really hurt in the honors at the Olympic road race. David Rebellin is upset and confused at having to give back his Olympic medal and some winnings. I am less concerned about the money; he has had a lot of success, but an Olympic experience, that is a little different. I can only imagine that a huge part of that particular experience is standing on the Olympic podium and feeling proud to be an Olympic champion – any Olympic medal is a fine result. Whilst you can give back the medal, what you can’t give back is that stolen moment to a rider who deserved it more. You can’t make that up, ever.
I am assuming we all accept the fact that Rebellin doped with CERA. I doubt very much that there is a conspiracy against David Rebellin. I also assume we except the test for CERA is reliable (otherwise Ricco, Pipolli and host of others would all be innocent…. I am not buying that). But in all of the news and blog columns about this subject we have spent too much time talking about Rebellin, who really doesn’t deserve our attention. He let us down; he used to be one of our idols. What makes a rider turn to dope at 37, with the career he has had? His reputation now ruined in the eyes of his fans and will be forever remembered as “well he was always a bit suspicious“. All in the chase to get one last result? Was it really worth the risk?
Enough talk about Rebellin, what about Alexander Kolobnev. A rider with huge depths of talent. The guy who made the move at the Worlds, and killed off all but two of the best riders in the world, one of them Cadel Evans. Maybe a rider with better legs than a strategic head? But man he is strong. He is always in the mix at the end of the big races, but has never ended up with anything to really show for it (well, since the Olympics he has a World’s silver, but that chance comes every year). An Olympic bronze might be one of the best results of his career. Standing on that podium, in that company, may have been the moment that changed him as a rider. We all need that little spike, natural, not chemical, to take us to the next level. A bronze medal could have been his. At that level in any sport the difference between nearly and did it is often mental, not physical.
Nobody remembers 4th, especially in the Olympics. So instead of talking about a great ride we waste our time talking about a man who literally stole 2nd. In all of the “Rebellin is a snake and a cheat” headlines, let’s spare a moment for Kolobnev and what he really missed out on. Not money, not a medal, but the high of standing on an Olympic podium and being an Olympic champion. Rebellin? Now known as the only Italian to be stripped of an Olympic medal, a career wasted.