Cyclist O'Grady admits doping in '98 Tour
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) -- A day after retiring from professional cycling, Stuart O'Grady admitted to using a blood-booster during the scandal-plagued 1998 Tour de France.
The 39-year-old Australian rider, a six-time Olympian and a stage winner on the Tour, announced his retirement after finishing his 17th Tour de France. He admitted Thursday he had used erythropoietin (EPO) for two weeks before the 1998 race, and said he had acquired it himself and used it without the knowledge of his team.
His admission came after French senate inquiry into doping in sport released its findings and implicated dozens of cyclists for suspicious tests, uncovering evidence that 1998 Tour de France champion Marco Pantani and runner-up Jan Ulrich used EPO to fuel their performances.
O'Grady, then riding for GAN, wore the yellow leader's jersey for three days in the `98 Tour.
"You win Olympics, Paris-Roubaix and now all of that is going to be tainted by this action and I wish it could be changed but it can't," O'Grady, who won the Madison gold medal at the 2004 Olympics and was a silver medalist in the team pursuit in his first Olympics in 1992, told News Corp Australia newspapers. "That's the hardest thing to swallow out of all this - it was such a long time ago and one very bad judgment is going to taint a lot of things and people will have a lot of questions."
O'Grady told the newspapers he just had to "drive over the border and buy it in a pharmacy" and used "extremely cautious amounts" of EPO.
"When the Festina affair happened, I smashed it, got rid of it and that was the last I ever touched it," he said.
The 1998 Tour de France was notable for the major scandal that emerged with the discovery of widespread doping on the French Festina team. The subsequent police crackdown led to seven of the original 21 teams either withdrawing or being ejected from the Tour.
France's Senate, after a five-month investigation focused on fighting sports doping, confirmed Wednesday that use of the banned substance EPO was rife in cycling in the late 1990s, before a test for the drug had been developed.
Pantani was suspended in 1999 from the Giro after failing a random blood test, and his career was damaged by several doping investigations. He died in 2004 at 34 of an accidental drug overdose.
Ullrich, the 1997 Tour winner, has admitted to blood doping and last year was stripped of his third-place finish in the 2005 Tour.
O'Grady joined the Orica-GreenEdge team last year and rode his last Tour with the Australian team, which issued a statement about the veteran rider's admissions.
"ORICA-GreenEDGE supports Stuart O'Grady's decision to step forward and place the findings of the French Senate Report of today into perspective regarding his own past," the team's general manager Shayne Bannan said. "The team would also like to express its support in Stuart as a person and as an advocate for a clean sport. Like the majority of the riders in his generation, he was also exposed to the issues and wrongdoings of the sport and made some wrong choices in that environment.
"We would like to underline that in all of our interactions with Stuart, he has always been extremely clear about the right path for the sport and we believe that certain mistakes in the past shouldn't be allowed to tarnish his entire career and his integrity as a person."
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