Cadel Evans (BMC) has said that Lance Armstrong is entitled to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Armstrong was among the riders named in Floyd Landis’ detailed allegations of a systematic doping programme at the U.S. Postal Service team, which became public in May. The American has strongly denied all allegations.
A federal investigation into the matter is ongoing. Last week, an American delegation led by special agent Jeff Novitzky met with European anti-doping investigators at Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France.
“Someone being accused or investigated doesn’t mean they’re guilty,” Evans told the Sydney Morning Herald when questioned on the matter, although he believes that those who are found guilty of doping should face consequences. “OK, when they're proved to be guilty let's hope justice is done and you're punishing people for wrong-doing.”
Evans was careful not to enter into the specifics of the Armstrong case and instead limited himself to some more general points.
''I think if anyone is investigated and then cleared, well, then they're more innocent than anyone who's not investigated, aren't they?” Evans said. “But also, unfortunately, people, and sometimes rightly so, attach investigation and accusation with guilt, which isn't always the case. I think for innocent people to be associated with guilt is really unfortunate.''
The former world champion also admitted that he is frustrated by the fact that any impressive ride is almost automatically tarred with suspicion, but he maintains that cycling is doing more than most other sports in the fight against doping.
“As cyclists [just because] you finished the Tour de France well doesn't mean you're a drug cheat, but sometimes you get painted with that brush unfortunately and it's not a nice feeling,” Evans said. ''We feel a little bit overly scrutinised sometimes. Cycling [bosses] are doing the right thing to try to clean up the sport and they're really doing it with transparency, but just because they catch one person with however many tests they do, it doesn't mean that everyone's a cheat.
''If you compare [cycling's drug-testing measures] to other sports that aren't anywhere near as scrutinised as we are, it's not always a fair comparison.''
The Tour and the Vuelta in 2011
After a hectic 2010, during which Evans exhibited his rainbow jersey at every opportunity, the Australian will have a more relaxed build-up to the Tour de France this time around. He will not ride the Tour Down Under and will only begin his season at Tirreno-Adriatico in March.
“I'll probably be really quiet during the year and no one will see me, and everyone will be asking what's the matter with me,'' Evans joked. “I think it will be the latest start I'll have to a season in my career ever, which for me is great because you have more time to do your base preparation before the season and when you have time to do something properly you usually do a better job of it.”
Evans will also skip the Giro d’Italia in 2011 after suffering the effects of last year’s epic corsa rosa in France in July, and is instead likely to ride the Vuelta a España in August. 'That's sort of locked in,” he said, although for now his thoughts are fixed firmly on the Tour de France. With Alberto Contador a possible absentee in 2011, Evans is all too aware that there may never have been a better year to build his season around the Tour.
“Just being fresher for July for me is the main thing because pretty much every year I've done the Tour I've got there pretty tired.”