Cycling: Former US Postal team-mate says Lance Armstrong should not be singled out in doping conspiracy

 

A former team-mate of Lance Armstrong claims the disgraced cyclist should not be singled out for criticism despite the damning findings of the United States Anti-Doping Agency.

Armstrong was said to have orchestrated "the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen" in the USADA report which provided the written reasons behind their decision to strip him of his seven Tour de France titles and to ban him from the sport for life.

But Australian Patrick Jonker, who rode for Armstrong's US Postal team in 2000, believes such was the problem with drugs in cycling at the time to focus solely on one rider is not right.

He told Radio Five Live: "Reading the report, I don't think Lance could have acted as the sole power behind this.

"I believe you must have had the knowledge of a doctor to enforce this.

"To crucify Lance and only Lance would be unfair, they need to crucify the sport during that era."

Although drug-taking was seemingly rife during the early part of the last decade, Jonker, who insisted he had never taken performance-enhancing substances himself, denied everyone at US Postal was involved.

"During that period, I was definitely aware that there were athletes using performance-enhancing drugs but I don't believe it was to the extent that USADA are coming out with," he added.

"The USADA were saying that in the Dauphine race three weeks before the Tour de France that there was a blanket use of performance-enhancing drugs in that particular race by the team and I was in the team with Tyler and Lance.

"The USADA pointing the finger at pretty much everyone is unfair.

"Me, myself, I am pretty sure the majority of the team were not taking drugs.

"In cycling then there was a problem but it was not a blanket."

Armstrong was accused of intimidating team-mates into taking banned substances to boost his own chances of success.

But Jonker said he was never approached by the Texan.

"He never had the conversation with me," he said

"I wasn't a big player in the game, I was a worker, lower down the ladder, often in the B team."

The world cycling union (UCI) has been criticised for not uncovering the depth of Armstrong's cheating earlier but Jonker believes the UCI was, in fact, ahead of the game in its determination to root out those not abiding by the rules.

He added: "The technology was not available to absolutely guarantee 100 per cent proof of the non-use of performance-enhancing drugs but the cycling union did the best they possibly could.

"To say the UCI is corrupt is difficult as there are many other sporting organisations in the world that don't have blood-testing at all, not even today.

"The UCI were very brave to introduce what they did but it has all imploded."

His cycling achievements, and his cancer charity work after beating the disease, had made Armstrong a hero to millions, including Formula One drivers Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.

Webber said today ahead of Sunday's Korean Grand Prix: "It's disappointing, I was a keen cycling fan through the early 2000s but slowly, slowly, slowly over time I lost a bit of my passion for the sport.

"It has been obvious in the last few years this was going to come, from people on the inside, but the dam wall has now broken and I think that obviously he was the last tree in the forest they wanted to chop down, and a big tree at that.

"It's good that they're trying to clean the sport up, even retrospectively, it sends a message to a lot of different sports that no matter what you have achieved and how you have done it at the time - the karma will come and get you."

Alonso added: "I love cycling, I love bicycles and for sure Lance was more than another rider, he was some kind of idol for many people and an inspiration for many of us in the world.

"It's not easy and I think he will remain an inspiration for many people, whatever happened, whatever the result. It is not easy to put together all these things."

PA

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