Bernhard Kohl, who confessed using performance-enhancing substances and methods during his former career as a pro cyclist - which saw him reach the final podium of the Tour de France - has successfully started a new life by opening a bike shop in Vienna, Austria.
Kohl names other riders allegedly involved in blood-doping
In a lengthy interview with Austrian ORF.at, the 27 year-old said that he was happy to have changed his profession and that he came out of this challenge a stronger man.
"I'm happy with my new situation: I have a new goal, a new challenge. This business is a lot of fun. And I think that's what's most important in my situation," said Kohl.
After having been caught doping, the Austrian admitted his wrongdoings and started a public anti-doping campaign in which he revealed all the details of how it was done, also earning a lot of criticism for the way he confesed. Still, he had no regrets as to his choices.
"I think I have taken the right path. Not always in the right direction, though, as I also made mistakes. But I ended up steering my boat the right way with the idea of the bike shop."
Kohl felt he had learned a lot during the last years. "Whoever experiences a situation like this one ends up getting out of it stronger - if they master it. Some may fall very low and possibly never get up again. I was more lucky as I was able to steer my destiny into the right direction again."
During the time the Austrian worked on re-integrating himself in society and working out a way to make a living, he became quite philosophical. Kohl said that he was relieved that his doping became apparent, as it "may have saved me from even greater harm".
"Maybe I would have continued and crashed badly and sit in a wheelchair today. You don't know these things. Life plays its little games that are destined to be," he said.
"Looking back at it, what I did and what I lived through was crazy. But when you're a professional athlete, you don't look beyond the tip of your nose. You're locked in that world, in which you do everything for success. To make it public, to speak about it, was my personal way of therapy. That is how I realised the extent of what I'd actually done. If not, I would have blocked it out like 99 percent of the other athletes."
Kohl continues to be involved in the fight against doping in his country, but didn't seem too confident as to its success and support from the government. "My lectures in schools are well-received, and the truth is accepted. But I wished there were more requests to educate. It seems that politicians are not too interested in that, otherwise they would be showing more initiative."
Kohl doesn't regret not being a pro cyclist anymore. "I have a new life now. It was a great time, but now I have other goals. Fortunately, I am able to fully concentrate on my new business, and that makes me very happy. If that wasn't the case, maybe I would be crying today, sitting there and longing to ride races again. But this way, I am satisfied."
The Austrian said he will not have the time to visit the Tour de France as a spectator, but that he would watch it live on two large TV screens in his bike shop. "I'm sure there will be some people here to watch it with me. That'll be funny," he grinned.
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