A sport 'made dirty by drugs'

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The Independent Online

Cycling remains beset by drug problems, Daniel Baal, the president of the French Cycling Federation (FFC), said yesterday to a court judging the 1998 Tour de France doping scandal.

Cycling remains beset by drug problems, Daniel Baal, the president of the French Cycling Federation (FFC), said yesterday to a court judging the 1998 Tour de France doping scandal.

"Cycling today is still not a clean sport," Baal told the court in Lille, adding that "new banned substances" pose ongoing problems. Giving evidence to the hearing as a civil witness, Baal said the sport must "get rid of its vices, which are doping and agreements between riders during races".

"Our sport has been made dirty by the use of drugs, but I am not in favour of applying a systematic equation that says cycling means drugs," he said.

Baal, who gave evidence for more than five hours, said: "We haven't succeeded in beating this curse. It has been a failure of the International Olympic Committee. In lots of instances, governments and scientists have been unable to come up with a response."

Judge Daniel Delegove said he respected Baal's sincerity but said cycling had not done enough. "You have censured those who speak out against drugs but not doping itself," he said. "You have given the appearance of having a healthy body when the body is rotten."

Between 1996 and 1998, Baal said it was felt the majority of riders had access to drugslikes EPO (erythropoietin). He said the use of drugs was a "professional temptation". Baal said he knew nothing about EPO prior to 1993, despite it being banned by the International Olympic Committee in 1990.

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