With the impending release of his book, Battle Scars, former Australian cyclist Stuart O'Grady has embarked on a media tour and sat down with Cyclingnews for his first major interview since his retirement and shares exactly what the title means to him personally.
"Battle Scars is a name that is very appropriate to my career it has been one hell of a journey," O'Grady said. "There have been some fantastic moments, and there have been some horrible moments. It's a cycling career that spans over 20 years and I have plenty of scars and seems like an appropriate title considering what's come out."
Having announced his retirement from professional cycling on the first Monday after the 2013 Tour de France, O'Grady then admitted to using EPO ahead of the 1998 Tour on the eve of the French Senate report into doping during that year's grand tour being publicly released.
Following his admission, O'Grady told the Australian newspaper, The Herald Sun, "I sourced it (EPO) myself. There was no one else involved. It didn't involve the team in any way," he said.
The French senate report indicated that O'Grady had recorded a ‘suspicious' doping test. O'Grady has reiterated that he only used the drug once, in the build up to the Tour, and following the discovery of numerous doping products in the car of Festina soigneur, Willy Voet, he explained to The Herald Sun that, "When the Festina Affair happened, I smashed it [EPO], got rid of it and that was the last I ever touched it."
O'Grady's admission of doping cast into doubt his subsequent results while racing, although he insists that his 2007 Paris-Roubaix and Olympic successes were achieved without the aid of drugs.
In the sit-down interview with Cyclingnews on Wednesday, O'Grady said of his time withholding the truth: "I just kind of buried it so far back in my mind because it was just one of those things that I hoped would never surface. It was the darkest period of my career. It was the darkest period of cycling in general."
Since his admission of doping, O'Grady has retreated from public life and told Cyclingnews that he has ridden his bike once since July – a casual ride in Luxembourg with his father and 10-year-old son.
"It's been a big transition, but to be honest I'm really enjoying it. Just being a dad and husband. Being normal," he said.
"I see my bikes in the shed and look at them and just shake my head and say no, not yet… it just symbolizes pain and suffering and a lot of hard work – or Battle Scars."