O’Grady admits EPO use in 1998 Tour, claims he never used substance again
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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

O’Grady admits EPO use in 1998 Tour, claims he never used substance again

by VeloNation Press at 1:50 PM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France, Doping
Says telling his parents he doped was “the worst moment of my life”; Bannan gives full backing

Stuart OFollowing the publication of the French Senate report earlier today and reports that a sample from him was suspicious for EPO, Stuart O’Grady has now admitted to doping prior to the 1998 Tour de France.

The Australian’s sudden retirement on Monday, a month and a half after he announced he would race until after the 2014 Tour de France, raised eyebrows, not least because the Senate report was due two days later.

Now the 39 year old Australian has told The Advertiser that he used the banned product prior to that Tour.

“I sourced it myself, there was no one else involved, it didn't involve the team in any way,” he told the newspaper. “I just had to drive over the border and buy it at any pharmacy. The hardest part of all this is I did it for two weeks before the Tour de France.

“I used extremely cautious amounts because I'd heard a lot of horror stories and did the absolute minimum of what I hoped would get me through. When the Festina Affair happened, I smashed it, got rid of it and that was the last I ever touched it.”

O’Grady did more than just ‘get through’ the race, holding the yellow jersey from stages four until six, and then later winning stage fourteen.

He said that his experiences one year earlier were the reason why he used EPO. “After my first Tour when I was dropped after five kilometres on a mountain day, and you're questioning what the hell I am doing in this sport you're not anywhere near competitive at something you're supposed to be pretty good at.

“It wasn't systematic doping, I wasn't trying to deceive people, I was basically trying to survive in what was a very grey area. We're humans who make mistakes. It was a decision I made at the time which I thought would basically get me through the Tour.”

He insisted that he never doped again, describing the taking of banned substances as representing ‘an extremely small percentage’ of his life. He said that the trauma of seeing riders being taken to jail scared him enough to not use banned products again.

“I was lucky enough to win a lot of things, they can test my samples from Paris-Roubaix and my Olympic medals for the next thousand years, they're not going to find anything,” he said.

French Senate report forces retirement and admission:

On June 5th O’Grady announced that he would extend his contract with the Orica GreenEdge team and aim to ride two more Tours. “I’ll race next year, and, if all goes to plan, my last race will be at the [2014] Tour de France. I wanted to finish off my career at a race that’s meant a lot to me throughout my time as a professional,” he said.

“This year will be my 17th Tour de France. Next year would be my 18th start if I make the team and get to next year’s Tour healthy,” he said. “This year, I’ll tie the all time record [with George Hincapie - ed.] for Tour de France starts. I would set a new record next year, which would be a pretty cool achievement.”

On Monday, he abruptly changed that plan, saying that he had decided to retire due to the strong Orica GreenEdge performance in the Tour.

“Originally, I wanted to keep going, but I’ve kept thinking that this is the year. We reached big goals as a team at the Tour, and I’m proud to finish my career after an amazing experience with an incredible team.

“I’m turning 40 very soon, and I’ve realized there are things in my life that I want to prioritize. My family has helped me make this decision. It’s been 23 years of top level performing and 19 years of professional racing, so it’s time to move on.”

The timing was highly curious, given the impending Senate report, and suspicions that he would be implicated turned out to be accurate.

O’Grady said that he told his parents on Monday in Paris that he had used banned substances. “It was the worst moment of my life,” he told The Advertiser.

“I just asked them to listen so I could paint a complete picture. All I've ever wanted in my career was to make mum and dad and my family proud.

“You win Olympics, Paris-Roubaix and now all of that is going to be tainted by this action and I wish it could be changed but it can't.”

Orica GreenEdge manager Bannan backs rider:

O’Grady’s team manager Shayne Bannan has responded to the confession, saying that the team stands behind the rider in his admission.

“Orica-GreenEdge supports Stuart O’Grady’s decision to step forward and place the findings of the French Senate Report of today into perspective regarding his own past.

"The team would also like to express its support in Stuart as a person and as an advocate for a clean sport. Like the majority of the riders in his generation, he was also exposed to the issues and wrongdoings of the sport and made some wrong choices in that environment.

"We would like to underline that in all of our interactions with Stuart, he has always been extremely clear about the right path for the sport and we believe that certain mistakes in the past shouldn’t be allowed to tarnish his entire career and his integrity as a person.”


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