/ Cycling

Tour de France winner Stephen Roche insists cycling's doping problem in the past

Updated: Friday, 19 Oct 2012 12:18 | Comments

Stephen Roche: 'Whatever mischief was going on then could never happen today'
Stephen Roche: 'Whatever mischief was going on then could never happen today'

The 1987 Tour de France champion Stephen Roche believes cycling's deep-rooted doping problem is firmly in the past despite the sordid revelations surrounding Lance Armstrong.

Armstrong refused to cooperate with the United States Anti-doping Agency, who published a 1,000-page report last week which concluded the Texan and his United States Postal Service team ran "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen".

Although aware the spectre of doping remains, Roche insists cycling has cleaned up its act and is frustrated all the good happening in the sport has been overshadowed by the recent revelations.

"Cycling has come along a lot since 1999. Maybe it got worse before getting better in the early 2000s, but definitely in 2010, 2011, 2012, even though (Alberto) Contador had his problems, cycling has come on an awful lot.

"Whatever mischief was going on then could never happen today.

"The proof the system's working is that a guy like Bradley Wiggins has come along and he's suspected of being clean, which is brilliant, and he's come out and won the Tour de France."

Team Sky sports director Sean Yates was key to Wiggins' triumph. Yates worked closely with Armstrong earlier in his career, but denies any wrongdoing.

"Whatever mischief was going on then could never happen today" - Stephen Roche

Roche has cautioned against finding people "guilty through association" after Team Sky reiterated their zero-tolerance stance and announced they will sever ties with anyone with a history of doping.

Roche, a friend of Yates, insists the Briton should not be reprimanded just because he was friends with Armstrong, whose seven Tour wins from 1999 to 2005 were fuelled by performance-enhancing drugs, according to USADA.

Roche added: "Is everybody guilty through association? In that case, get rid of everybody. Wipe out half the peloton, half the directeur sportifs, half the managers, half the UCI and then start from scratch.

Lance Armstrong (centre back) and Stephen Roche (front) at a Tour de France winners gathering in 2002

"I'd understand, but I don't think it's really fair. It's a bit radical to tear things up like that.

"Sean has been a great part of Sky. He's been a great asset to cycling. I think it's unfortunate if he loses his job now because of this.

"There are others in the same situation and I don't know if this is the right way to tackle the problem."

The scandal has torn a hole through the heart, and to the very top, of the sport.

Hein Verbruggen, the International Cycling Union's honorary president, was yesterday forced to dismiss an article in which he appears to defend Armstrong as "misleading".

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