Mark Cavendish: “Why are we carrying the can for Lance and his inner circle?”
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Saturday, January 19, 2013

Mark Cavendish: “Why are we carrying the can for Lance and his inner circle?”

by Ben Atkins at 11:33 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Doping
 
Former World champion angered by Armstrong’s years of cheating tarnishing the current sport

mark cavendishHaving reacted angrily to being questioned about Lance Armstrong at the recent Omega Pharma-Quick Step team presentation, 2011 World champion Mark Cavendish has now directed his wrath towards the disgraced American. In an interview with The Sun newspaper, Cavendish expressed his disgust with the now-confessed doping of Armstrong, but especially with the fact that he feels that current riders are judged by the American’s behaviour.

“He was a hero to anyone wanting to be cyclist when I was growing up, but when he was asked in the past if he was cheating he was so adamant, so convincing,” Cavendish said. “I get irritated when people question if my success is through hard work, but after seeing the interview, I can now understand why people have a problem with believing us today when we say we are clean.

“They could think ‘if Lance lied so well, so could they’.”

Cavendish’s professional career began at the end of 2006, as he stagiaired with the T-Mobile team that he would fully join the following year. This was more than a year after Armstrong had retired at the end of what, at the time, was a seven-year Tour de France winning streak.

The Manxman did ride alongside Armstrong after his comeback in 2009, however, and now faces the likely fact [although this is one thing that Armstrong specifically denied during his interview with Oprah Winfrey - ed] that the Texan was doping then.

“That’s the issue for me, if he was cheating while I knew him. I phoned Lance on a couple of occasions to ask him for advice, he was a friend,” Cavendish said. “It would hurt me more if he was doping then, when I counted him as a mate. But evidence from the UCI's Biological Passport program, ironically a program he said really works, suggests a one in a million chance he didn’t dope.

"But in the interview, he claimed the allegations as absolutely false. Where I could have believed him before seeing video clips of him lying convincingly before, I think I'm among the majority who can't trust the words anymore.”

Armstrong’s big legacy, Cavendish now feels, is that he has left behind a sport full of competitors that are judged by the American’s standards.

“What really annoys me is the fact modern pro cyclists are tarred with the same brush as a dope-cheat because of what happened in a bygone era,” Cavendish said.

“During the years we’re talking about in terms of Lance doping I was at school,' he added. "We don’t assume every current BBC presenter is a sexual deviant because of what Jimmy Savile and his cronies were doing in the 1970s.

“So why are we carrying the can for Lance and his inner circle?”

New anti-doping measures would make it impossible for Armstrong to do the same today

mark cavendishRather than the dirty images of the sport contained in the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) evidence, used to eventually catch and suspend Armstrong, the sport is now far cleaner, Cavendish says. The requirements of the whereabouts system, the biological passport, and the banning of non-medical injections are just three measures that would make doping like that done by Armstrong and his team impossible, the Manxman argues.

“It’s virtually impossible for riders to dope without getting caught,” he said. “On a race the top three riders will be chaperoned the moment they cross the line, even when on the podium, until they have given a urine sample. That is standard.

“It means if you’re winning a lot you’re day is made a lot longer after each stage because you have to comply to their rules. They don’t let you out of their sight.

“One year I was doing so well I was the single most tested rider on the planet.”

On thing that Cavendish disapproves of in the USADA case against Armstrong is the lesser punishments handed out to those that testified against the Texan. Where Armstrong has been handed a life ban from all World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) accredited sports, riders like Dave Zabriskie, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vande Velde and George Hincapie were handed suspensions of just six months.

This was also something that Armstrong himself declared unfair in his lengthy Oprah Winfrey interview.

"Ironically, the past team-mates of Lance, who admitted doping, got reduced sentences, like 6 months, for naming him,” said Cavendish. "This too upset me about the whole fiasco. I believe a cheat should be caught and punished, but for the right moral reasons. I believe that some of the people at USADA don't care about cleaning up a supposed 'dirty sport'.

"Maybe they already believe it's not dirty anymore? I believe they were only interested in bringing down Armstrong, whether for political reasons or personal fame. But in doing so, have damaged the reputation of the sport and its athletes as much as Lance has himself.”

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