More people are taking up cycling despite drugs scandal

THE reputation of cycling has never been more in question, yet more people are participating in the sport than ever before. 

With the announcement yesterday that Lance Armstrong, the seven-time Tour de France champion who was stripped of his titles due to drug-use allegations, will appear in an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey next week, the spectre of drug abuse continues to intrude on today’s big cycling events. 

But Cycling Australia and other authorities are convinced the sport has turned the corner. 

Drug testing body Australian Sports Anti-Doping Association may be present during Cycling Australia’s Road National Championships, which started in Ballarat yesterday.

Race director from Cycling Australia Sean Muir said the organisation has been given all start lists and event times.

“As with any Cycling Australia event, we deal directly with ASADA. It is up to them which races they will be present at and when,” Mr Muir said.

“We have made drug testing facilities available to them to use throughout the course of the championships.”

Mr Muir said Cycling Australia hoped no one would test positive to prohibited substances.

“Our website makes it clear to competitors what they can and they can’t take, but with any sport there are maybe 0.1 of a per cent that may test those restrictions,” he said.

“At the end of the day, it is up to the riders’ discretion.”

SBS commentator and the voice of international cycling, Phil Liggett, said he thought cyclists at the event this week would be clean. 

“I would be extremely surprised if anyone has taken drugs in Ballarat this week; the disgrace for them would be far too high,” Mr Liggett said. 

“And they’re racing to win – and if you win, you’re wearing Australian colours for the next year.

“We’re now seeing teenagers winning races – and they’re not on drugs.”

Although there has been endless controversy surrounding the competitve sport, Mr Ligett said he believed that cycling’s reputation hasn’t suffered at all. 

“The Lance Armstrong information came out in October – and that has long since passed, and cycling has never been a more popular sport,” Mr Ligett said. 

“In England, they had a goal that two million people would be cycling before the end of 2013 – and they reached that goal four weeks before Christmas, a year before their target.

“The scandal hasn’t ruined the sport. And whatever Lance says now can’t ruin the sport.”

nicole.cairns@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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