FORMER Australian cyclist and Colac resident Phil Anderson says Lance Armstrong’s lifetime ban from cycling for drug use is a huge blow to the sport.
Anderson was a staunch supporter of the American until doping evidence emerged from Armstrong’s former teammates and team staff including disgraced US cyclist Floyd Landis.
Anderson rode in the Motorola team with Armstrong in the early ‘90s and is a former stage winner at the Tour de France.
He said Armstrong had always appeared a clean rider.
“I was always a huge supporter of Lance, we were on the same team for a few years when he was coming into the sport,” he said.
“That was in the twilight years of my career and he came along to my team basically as a junior.
“For me, at that stage, he was pre-cancer and he seemed a very clean rider and he seemed a future champion.”
The UCI, cycling’s governing body, yesterday ratified a US Anti-Doping Agency investigation that found Armstrong had used performance-enhancing drugs during his seven Tour de France wins starting in 1999.
Armstrong lost his seven Tour titles and received a lifetime ban from cycling.
Armstrong recovered from testicular, lung, abdomen and brain cancer in 1996 and endured suspicion about his riding success during his career.
Anderson, who leads cycling tours to the Tour de France and other races, said Armstrong endured doping suspicion because of his health issues.
“Right from his very first win in 1999 there was suspicion mostly because people had trouble coming to grips with his miraculous return from cancer,” he said.
“He not only came back to health but competed at a very high level in the sport by winning his first tour and then going on to win another half dozen tours; it was history-making.
“I was always campaigning for Lance but over the last couple of months the evidence certainly has been mounting against him.
“I’ve had to change my tune, which has actually been quite humbling.”
Cycling has battled image problems due to the continued discovery of drug cheats within the sport.
Anderson said Armstrong’s ban was a wake-up call for sporting anti-doping agencies across the world.
“It’s a huge blow to the sport and a big blow to quite a few sports,” he said.
“Cycling is at the top of the tree at the moment but this will change a lot of doping controls and the way doping within sport will be handled from now on.”