Some very big names have said Mea Culpa recently, baring their souls and admitting to doping within the sport. Bjarne Riis and Erik Zabel will be criticised by many for using banned substances, but in taking the step to admit their errors, they have moved things forward for cycling. UCI President Pat McQuaid gave his reaction to Cyclingnews' Shane Stokes.
Just over a year ago the Operación Puerto affair broke when Eufemiano Fuentes, Manolo Saiz and others were arrested in Madrid and charged in connection with doping in cycling. The time since has been an extremely turbulent one, with the enquiry implicating many big-name riders and bringing about the retirement of Jan Ullrich and the suspension of Ivan Basso.
The months since then have also seen Tour de France winner Floyd Landis being suspended and charged with doping during the race, with the outcome of his recent USADA hearing set to be delivered in the weeks ahead.
Apart from the Landis hearing, doping was in the news in recent days when a spate of riders connected with the former Telekom team confessed to using EPO and other products during the 1990s. Rolf Aldag, Udo Bolts, Christian Henn, Brian Holm and others admitted doping, with the two highest-profile names being current Milram rider Erik Zabel and CSC manager Bjarne Riis. Both said they took EPO during the 1996 Tour de France, which was won by the latter.
Pat McQuaid has been UCI president during perhaps one of the most rocky times for cycling. The Irishman acknowledges that recent months have been very difficult for the sport, but hopes that this process signals a change in mentality and will help bring about a better future.
"My reaction [to Bjarne Riis' confession] is the same as that to the two Germans [Zabel and Aldag] yesterday," he told Cyclingnews on Friday evening, speaking from the Pan-American cycling championships in Caracas, Venezuela. "It is sad that this has been the case, that they have had to resort to doping during their career. However, by the same token you have got to recognise that it was a brave decision of the three, Riis included, to do this."
Read the entire 'Chipping away at omerta' feature here.