The doping debate

Moore and Smith look at the Armstrong scandal

Last Updated: 19/10/12 10:25am

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The world of cycling and, indeed, professional sport has been rocked by the Lance Armstrong doping saga.

A report released by USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency) revealed details of the seven-time Tour de France winner's alleged extensive use of performance-enhancing drugs during his golden period.

The document featured candid accounts from the Texan's former US Postal Service team-mates and colleagues, including Tyler Hamilton and George Hincapie, both of whom admitted to taking banned substances themselves.

Ex-British cyclist and Armstrong's former team-mate Brian Smith joined cycling journalist Richard Moore in the Sky Sports News studio on Thursday afternoon to discuss the affair, which has seen Armstrong lose his contracts with, among others, sportswear giant Nike, electronics firm RadioShack and bike manufacturer Trek.

Smith and Moore also analysed many of the issues surrounding the case, including the way cycling's drug culture has changed, and Team Sky's new proposal that they will not allow anyone ever involved in doping to work for them...

Richard Moore on the Lance Armstrong allegations

"Most of us have been convinced for a long time that Armstrong was cheating and I don't think they are allegations anymore; the evidence is incontrovertible and it is very difficult to imagine that all the people in the USADA document were all telling the same lies. The first Tour de France I covered was 2005 - Armstrong's last victory - and by then it was pretty much an open secret that he was cheating.

"However, he was a very effective liar - there was a Nike advert where he spoke convincingly about being a clean athlete - and without hard evidence you were very limited in terms of what you could write about what was going on. It is prudent business (for the sponsors) to drop him at this moment as Armstrong has been a toxic figure in the last week or so, but there were questions that should have been asked long before now that weren't. And there is more to come out about him and the sport; there are investigations going on in Italy, Holland and Spain."

Brian Smith on the collapse of support for Armstrong in the last seven days

"I said last week that, as an ex-team mate of his, I think he is a liar and a cheat and I personally think he's guilty. It's taken time for a lot of these sponsors, the likes of Nike and RadioShack, to realise the evidence in these documents and now we're seeing the stack of cards starting to fall. I don't think anybody wanted to believe it, everybody in cycling doesn't want all this bad news about it, but it's about time this happened and I'm glad it's happened.

"We lost distance in our relationship when he came back after his cancer. I was shocked when he got his cancer, but afterwards, when he went on his alleged doping programme, that's when I started to see the tell-tale signs. I don't think anybody believes him now."

Smith on Armstrong's seemingly nonchalant response to the affair

"He's that sort of person; he's brash, he's bold, he's untouchable and he's obviously got direct contact with all the powers-that-be in cycling. He's even got direct contact with (Barack) Obama, the President of America, so he's right up there with the powers and very much untouchable.

"I would like to speak to him and ask the question: 'Why did you do it?' I'd want to know that and everybody would want to ask that; they need closure on this subject. He's remaining silent about it, he won't answer any questions and he remains saying that he hasn't tested positive - which he hasn't, the rules say he hasn't tested positive. I would ask him that question, but would I like him as a friend? No."

Moore and Smith on the doping culture in cycling in the 1990s

MOORE: "I don't think people could admit to doping if they were going to lose their jobs and that's the position these guys were put in. The USADA document and others tells us that it is not just Armstrong and that doping was rampant throughout the 1990s, a decade for which a lot of the time there was no test for EPO. It was almost legalised as there was a red blood cell limit that riders were allowed to go up to; it was kind of okay and created an ingrained culture of doping. It is fair to suggest that an awful lot of riders in the '90s and early 2000s were doping."

SMITH: "In the 1990s, especially when I was a pro in Europe, it was known and talked about that EPO was about. In fact, I was in a doctor's surgery when a junior cyclist of an Italian team came in and there were vials of EPO that his father had brought in. The junior team in Italy had been giving them to him to take and he didn't know what they were, so I knew that in Italy, at that time when I was a pro, EPO was coming about. Looking back, and placing things together, it's what happened in pro cycling in that period of time. If you wanted to become a big star and win the Tour de France you had to take performance-enhancing drugs. I said no at an early stage and I lost my position in Motorola. We now see that the '90s is where it started with Lance and his team."

Moore on the change in attitudes between the '90s and now

"The punishments in the '90s were a 10-minute penalty and perhaps a three-month ban, which were rarely applied, and the governing body need to take an awful lot of responsibility for the culture that developed. We have a different attitude now, especially since WADA came onto the scene, and that is a good thing, but it is dangerous applying a 2012 morality to a different era and some sort of amnesty is the way to go (for proven drug cheats)."

Moore and Smith on Team Sky's anti-doping philosophy

MOORE: "You can, like some teams have done, admit that that culture was there and give these guys a second chance, or you can implement the zero-tolerance policy that Sky are implementing, which I think is unrealistic. It is a bold stance but you have to implement it fully and not take any chances with anybody in it all. It would involve putting guys in team cars who have no previous experience of professional cycling on the continent. Most people have absolute faith in Team Sky; there are no doubts that it is a clean team, but I think they have put themselves in a difficult position by insisting that all the riders and staff don't have any kind of history at all."

SMITH: "Like Richard, I do believe that Team Sky are clean; they have been clean from day one and they are clean now. But, like Richard is saying, this piece of paper that they are being asked to sign is completely wrong. I know from the '90s and from what I know within the sport that a lot of people had to get involved in that element to be a good professional."

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