Nicole Cooke, Britain’s former Olympic road race champion, has retired with a characteristically outspoken attack on Lance Armstrong, Tyler Hamilton and cycling’s governing body. Cooke also revealed how she was offered the chance to dope during her career.
“I do despair that the sport will ever clean itself up when rewards of stealing are greater than riding clean,” she said. “If that remains the case, the temptation for those with no morals will always be too great. I have been robbed by drugs cheats, but am fortunate I am here with more in my basket than I dreamed of.
“But for many people who do ride clean; people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work – some going through horrific financial turmoil. Tyler Hamilton will make more money from a book describing how he cheated than I will make in all my years of honest labour.
“When Lance [Armstrong] ‘cries’ on Oprah this week and she passes him the tissue, spare a thought for all those genuine people who walked away with no rewards – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances.”
Cooke criticised the UCI for its governance and also spoke of how close she came to doping. She said: “I have had days where temptation to start onto the slippery slope was brought in front of me. In my Tour de France when I was 19 as the race went on my strength left me. I was invited into a team camper and asked what “medicines” I would like to take to help me. I said I would do my best but I was not taking anything."
The 29-year-old won Britain’s first gold of the Beijing Games in 2008, the year in which she also became a world champion, and competed in London without winning a medal.