Banning cycling from future Olympics is the only way to purge the sport - and the Games - from the lingering disgrace of the Lance Armstrong scandal.
That is the drastic action demanded by Britain’s double gold-medal winner Daley Thompson, who feels that the Olympic movement itself is suffering through association with certain areas of a sport that have almost become a byword for cheating and drug-taking.
The Games legend admits he has watched Armstrong’s fall from grace with ‘sadness’, not for the disgraced seven times Tour de France winner but for the sport he has tarnished.
Since the publication of the United States Anti-Doping Agency report just over a week ago, cycling has been in chaos.
Armstrong has lost a string of major sponsors while Dutch bank Rabobank, who have supported a professional team since 1990, have withdrawn altogether from the sport.
Thompson knows where he places the blame.
‘Armstrong is a cheating b*****d and that’s all there is to it,’ said Thompson, the Olympic decathlon champion of 1980 and 1984.
‘It’s a terrible situation for anyone who cares about sport in its purest sense. It’s been warped and damaged by a cheat.’ Thompson’s contempt extends to the cycling’s governing body, the UCI.
They have yet to announce their own sanction on Armstrong, while their honorary president, Hein Verbruggen, was reported last week as saying that there were ‘many stories and allegations, but not a trace of evidence’.
Verbruggen disputes the context of the quote, although the text message which contained it has since been made public.
Rather than concentrate their attention on Armstrong, however, the UCI appear to be engaged in attacking their critics.
They have taken legal action against journalist Paul Kimmage, who reported that they had covered up positive tests from Armstrong.
‘The governing body are a disgrace,’ added 54-year-old Thompson. ‘Suing people who report on the sport, and put it in the papers? Well, this whole subject isn’t going to go quietly away as the evidence mounts up. I hope that he sues them straight back for what they’ve done to him.’
Verbruggen, along with UCI president Pat McQuaid, accepted more than $100,000 (£62,474) from Armstrong, purportedly to pay for a blood analysing machine in the wake of a positive test, allegedly given in 2001.
According to Dick Pound, the former head of the World Anti-Doping Association, the UCI’s behaviour ‘has not always been what you would hope it to be’.
Thompson, who has long been an outspoken advocate of drug-free sport, believes that despite the fact Verbruggen and McQuaid are members of the International Olympic Committee, that body could provide the shock to the system cycling needs to clean itself up, starting from the very top.
Were the IOC to threaten to expel cycling from the Rio Olympics ‘unless it can show it has got its house in order and wants to take the fight against doping seriously’, Thompson believes the UCI hierarchy could be forced out.
The sport then, he hopes, could be placed back in the ‘hands of people who actually care about it - the people who come from the grass roots.’
Thompson added: ‘The whole UCI are clearly not fit for purpose. I don’t know if they’re allowed to, but it really is the sort of thing where the IOC should be able to step in and say, “Hold on a minute. If you want to be a part of our family, you need to sort things out”.
‘I don’t know if they have the power to do that but they should. I know there are links but the Olympics is a very special thing, it carries a lot of weight and it should use its influence.
‘There should be sanctions against cycling being a part of the next Olympic Games unless they put their house in order. I want drug cheats thrown out, never to return.
‘I’m not defending them, but we need to look at how things developed so that they could cheat in the first place. Sanctions against cheating athletes are essential but they also need to be applied against seemingly complicit governing bodies.
‘I don’t think people who take part in cycling, the competitors and the people at the grass roots who go out at the weekend on their bikes just for the sheer love of it, feel any sort of connection or even confidence in the people who run their sport, and that’s terrible.
‘The two sides, the governing body and the competitors have grown so far apart that it has become a disgrace and it’s not fair on cycling. The loser is the very sport they’re meant to be protecting and we should always remember that it’s not the people at the top who own the sport, not the people in the nice offices and the big, flash hotels.
‘It’s the cyclists who are looking at the reputation of their sport suffering, and it’s not right.’
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(Source: Daily Mail)