Petr Koukal was diagnosed with cancer – the same type as Lance Armstrong – and, just like the American cyclist did, Petr fought to come back to the courts. After Armstrong’s televised admission last night that he was cheating all that time, the Czech shuttler is sad that his former hero tarnished the reputation of sport in general. Badzine talked to Petr about his feelings.
Badzine: Before Lance Armstrong admitted that he was taking banned substances, did you believe he was clean?
Petr Koukal: Well I wanted to believe he was clean, yes. But it was hard when you hear all the rumours, charges, evidence…
Badzine: What was your opinion of this athlete before yesterday?
Koukal: For me he was one of the greatest athlete of all time. And of course, his story was great motivation for me at the times when I needed it most.
Badzine: He’s had cancer, just like you did, and managed to fight back and win the fight against the disease. Is he someone you looked up to when you were ill, and taking him as an example?
Koukal: Sure he was. I read his books many years ago and I read them again when I was sick. We actually even had the same kind of cancer. The only different was that his was diagnosed at just a bit later stage.
Badzine: Do you feel like you’ve been « betrayed », somehow, by his example?
Koukal: I would not say betrayed. This news makes me sad, of course, but when you look at the sport of cycling and its doping problems in general, he was probably still one of the greatest… It is just very bad for the reputation for sport. Not only cycling.
Badzine: What if you had similar ways to win and become a world number one in badminton, would you have been tempted?
Koukal: Well, who wouldn’t? But I think you should always consider what the risks are of those ways. After all I had to go through in last two and half years, I really can not imagine putting my body consciously into any risk again. This is the hardest thing for me to understand. Once you almost die, how can you still use dangerous doping and take another risk??? I really have no understanding for this behaviour.
Badzine: What is your gut feeling now about Lance Armstrong ? Can you understand how he felt?
Koukal: Maybe his disease was some kind of cover for taking testosterone. I was also told by doctors that I might be forced to get some extra as well. Luckily that did not happen and my body doesn’t need it. But of course, as someone who went through the similar illness I really can understand his motivation to get back and be as strong as before or even stronger. It is very hard when you get over such a thing like cancer and you can’t reach the level you used to play at. But I still think it is better to keep trying instead of taking that huge risk by taking doping…
Badzine: Do you think something similar could happen in badminton, for players who seem to be so much better than others?
Koukal: Well, I am sure some top players have their « things », how to improve their performance. But I really want to believe that it is on natural bases and far far away from doping. And most of all, there are thousands and thousands of hours of hard work behind their success and uniqueness.
For more information on Petr Koukal, please visit his homepage or his page on Facebook.