Cycling's efforts to clean itself up and banish its reputation as a sport where doping is rife is working according to Mark Cavendish. The current holder of the rainbow jersey and the winner of the 2011 green jersey at the Tour de France has seen his public profile rise substantially in the last few months and he has used his increasing fame to launch a defence of his sport and his colleagues.
"In the last three years I've had over 60 dope tests a year and in 2008/09 I was the most tested athlete on the planet," he told Sky Sports.
"Because of what has happened in the past, cycling does not want that again. People say 'oh, look - there's been a positive test in cycling.' Well that's because they're doing things to catch them. When they do catch them they don't care about the image or the franchise of the sport - they care about making a cleaner and fairer sport, so they make an example of these people."
Cavendish, who will be moving to Team Sky for the 2012 season and who recently collected his MBE for services to British cycling from The Queen, said that much has changed since he turned professional and that people should focus on the positives and the progress cycling has made rather than dishing out old prejudices.
"I've raced with these guys every day and since I started racing pro in 2005 I've noticed a difference in the sport," he said. "There are bigger groups at the finish and everybody's on their hands and knees. Nobody's bouncing around fresh as a daisy after a stage anymore. It's such a hard sport. It's so frustrating because we work so hard. I ride 50,000km a year. I train, and less than half of that is racing so I have to do the rest training to make sure I'm good for those races. When I put in all that work and someone says 'cycling is just dope' that really winds me up. No it isn't."