Cycling: Tour arrests `scratch surface'

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The Independent Online
DRUG-TAKING is an epidemic in cycling, the American favourite, Lance Armstrong, claimed yesterday at the world road race championships. "I don't think anyone has the answer to it and that is clearly the problem," he said.

"When there is big money in sport you are going to have cheating. It has been going on for some time. The only thing you can hope for is to limit it as much as possible.

"It has been a rough summer and we have not even begun to scratch the surface of the problem." Armstrong was referring to the Tour de France scandal that led to arrests and the Festina team being expelled from the race.

"It has been taken out of the sport's hands and is with the (French) government," he added. "The sport is dealing with the police and justices and they are relentless."

Armstrong said that limiting a rider's days of competition and shortening major tours, as proposed by the International Cycling Union (UCI), was not the way to stop the use of performance-enhancing substances.

"The sport is much more competitive than 10 years ago. Then 20 or 30 were competitive. Now it is 70 or 80. There are no longer easy days in the Tour de France. Winning a stage is so important."

Armstrong, facing his first world road race championship for three years tomorrow after an 18-month battle to beat testicular cancer, criticised the late scheduling of the event.

The 27-year-old won the world title when the championships were held in August five years ago. "It is surprising to be here as a favourite and it is an honour after all that has happened to me," he said.

Ivan Basso led an Italian clean sweep of the medals in the under-23 championships. Basso finished 16 seconds clear of the field while compatriot Rinaldo Nocentini snatched the silver and Danilo di Luca took the bronze.

Basso broke clear on the final climb of the Bemelberg with 10 kilometres of the 172km course remaining.

Two years ago Italy scored a 1-2-3 in the first under-23 championships at Lugano when Giuliano Figueras led home Roberto Sgambelluri and Luca Sironi.