By Les Clarke
After a long layoff due to the much-publicised 'shooting galleries' drugs scandal, Australian track sprinter Mark French is getting on with the job of training and racing, and believes that he's capable of being among the world's best again. Racing at the Bendigo Madison carnival last weekend, French said he's been extremely busy over the last few months, and it appears to be paying off.
"I believe in myself," French told Cyclingnews. "Hopefully I can get back on the dias at world's in 2007, and at the moment I'm racing and training better than I ever have," he said.
Australian selectors didn't choose French for the team that will travel to the world championships in Bordeaux, France, April 13-16, but French seems undaunted. He said it was "extremely disappointing considering the time I did," to miss out on a place in Bordeaux, "but we've worked out my year with Cycling Australia where I'll just basically come back into training. I'm going to go to France to race the grand prix in June, and Prague as well - I'll race there for three weeks and the spend all of July here. In August I'll join the AIS boys and do some grands prix in America and Europe again."
It's a busy schedule for French, but being overseas means he'll be out of the spotlight, something he doesn't mind one bit. He said the possibility of appealing the selection decision for the world championships team existed, but even if his appeal was successful he ran the risk of sitting out the racing. He said he'd prefer to get on with the hard work. "I've been guaranteed a spot in the squad for next year's Sydney round of the track world cup as long as I get some results in the grands prix," he said.
The young Victorian also said the reaction to him racing in Bendigo was excellent, something he was genuinely pleased about. "It's been unbelievable - the riders have been extremely good to me," he said.
Cyclingnews' coverage of the Australian doping allegations & Mark French's comeback
January 26, 2006: Mark French in last-minute qualifier
January 21, 2006: Mark French misses Commonwealth Games qualification time - just
January 18, 2006: Mark French returns
July 12, 2005: Mark French cleared
November 18, 2004: Anderson report clears all but French
August 13, 2004: Dajka loses final bid
August 4, 2004: Witch hunting in the 21st century, part 2
August 3, 2004: Dajka appeal will be heard
August 2, 2004: Dajka misses deadline to appeal
July 30, 2004: Kersten in, Dajka out of Australian Olympic squad
July 29, 2004: Dajka's spot in Athens squad faces new threat, Selective leaks or reporting designed to defame?, Growth hormone test is go
July 29, 2004: Dajka's spot in Athens squad faces new threat
July 21, 2004: Australian Olympic Committee selects Eadie and Kersten
July 19, 2004: Eadie wins appeal
July 19, 2004: Eadie considers legal action
July 16, 2004: Dajka cleared by Customs
July 14, 2004: Eadie out, Kersten in, pending appeal
July 13, 2004: Eadie lodges appeal
July 12, 2004: Eadie hit with doping notice - from 1999; French saga rolls on
July 10, 2004: AOC 'withholds' Dajka from Australian Olympic team
July 9, 2004: Pound comments 'ill-informed', says ASC
July 2, 2004: Anderson report clears named riders; full Australian Olympics cycling team nominations
July 1, 2004: The high cost of controversy
June 26, 2004: Accused rider hits back: 'I was never in Adelaide'
June 25, 2004: One week for French inquiry
June 24, 2004: Mark French makes statement
June 23, 2004: Pound weighs in
June 22, 2004: Cycling Australia welcomes inquiry; Riders deny involvement in doping
June 22, 2004: French gets life, but still offers to assist new enquiry
June 21, 2004: Lifetime Olympic ban for French
June 19, 2004: French faces blowtorch from sports authorities
June 18, 2004: Opposition calls for inquiry into AIS track cycling program
June 9, 2004: French suspended two years
June 1, 2004: Horse hormones found in French's room