An interview with Roland Green, October 19, 2005
Former MTB world champion Roland Green has decided to retire at the age of 31. Green, who won his world titles in 2001 and 2002 believes he's lost the desire to give it 100 per cent, saying, "after world's I just wasn't feeling right. You have to give it 100 per cent when you're racing, and I wasn't - so I decided I shouldn't be doing it anymore." Cyclingnews' Les Clarke found out why this was the case.
The Canadian rider had come back from a six-month drugs suspension retroactively imposed in March 2005 and was racing with the Kona team, where he was enjoying himself, "I was happy to ride with Kona. It was where I started racing pro - they're Canadian, and they have a different attitude to racing - I had lots of fun. It was also cool to race with some teammates I hadn't raced with in a while." Green said the team was very understanding of his decision and respected the fact that "an athlete's wishes come first".
Green's late-season results were beginning to reflect the fact he was enjoying his racing again. "It was starting to come together near the end of the season - at the NORBA final I felt like I could win it, but I missed a couple of feeds and had some cramping problems. Then I thought I could have a good world's, but after double flatting it didn't quite work out." It was after this world's race, however, that Green decided his time as a pro was finished. "So many things weren't clicking, and now there are other things I want to do," he said.
Green received a retroactive six-month suspension (from July 2004 until April this year) for not having cleared his asthma medication for use. He tested positive for it after the Houffalize round of the world cup last year, but as the paperwork for his clearance wasn't up to date, he was suspended. During his suspension he kept training as if he was racing because he knew there was a chance of riding the final NORBAs of the season; but he was only too aware that "you can only simulate racing so much...although I had great people on the team, which made it better."
Recently, fellow Canadian rider Chris Sheppard was given a two year suspension for EPO use, after testing positive in an out-of-competition test in May this year. The Team Haro rider admitted his guilt and cited recent health problems as the impetus for his drug use. Green believes this is indeed what drove Sheppard to use EPO, saying, "Do I think he did it for his career? No. When I first heard it, I couldn't believe it. Shep's been a pro for a long time - he didn't make much money, and I know he was going through some tough toughs lately. He was just desperate for some results."
Having had dealings with the anti-drug authorities, Green had heard of some limitations regarding the test, and thought that Sheppard was possibly a victim of these shortcomings. "I'd heard there was some misinformation about the EPO test. There was a guy who 'beat the test' after the Mont Sainte Anne round of the world cup, and some Belgian who also beat it shortly after - I thought maybe Shep would be the same, but then he came out and admitted it."
Green's own experience with the authorities frustrated him, and he believes that without the forced break from competition it's possible he could have continued racing for another year or two. "It was a bogus, frustrating ban. I take full responisibility for it, but they threw the book at me. I've seen other athletes in other sports get off with a warning for the same offence I was suspended for." Green is convinced that the money spent on the due process involved with his suspension could be used in better ways, saying, "There are still athletes out there that don't make enough money to pay the rent. You look at the due process I went through and I think the authorities could use their money a lot better than how it's currently being used. That's the politics of cycling, I guess."
Green says that although the problem of drugs in cycling and sport in general will never be wiped out, and that there has to be a better way to control the situation. "Recently I was reading about a system where athletes voluntarily donate blood samples throughout the season, and by donating it meant you were clean. Eventually you could get most riders donating, sending a statement that they were clean." By making open accountability the driving factor, Green believes that other riders that don't donate may be pursuaded to do so, hence cleaning up the sport to a greater degree. "At the moment, those athletes with the most money can get away with it and get the results. Look at Shep - he hasn't got the same kind of money as other athletes and got caught."
For the immediate future, Green just wants to do things outside cycling, but says he needs to stay active. "I'll have a hard time not riding; I'm already running and trying to stay active - I need to stay active." There are no management ambitions for this former world champion, however, and although he gives advices and 'coaches' some riders already, it's nothing formal, which suits him just fine. "I really enjoy just helping other riders out, but it's not coaching as such." Property management is something that takes up plenty of Green's time, and after investing a sizeable amount of money into property around his area, increased prices have definitely put a spring in his investment step. "Managing property takes up a fair bit of my time - I've invested heavily in the area, and with prices recently increasing, it's looking good." So, in 2006, don't expect to see Roland Green hanging around too many bike races, because "After racing for 16 years, it's time to do something else."