French daily sports newspaper L'Equipe has asked French research institute Ipsos to conduct as survey on the credibility of cycling, which it has partly published in Wednesday's edition. The survey was carried out in four European countries (France, Germany, Italy and Spain) to compare the public's attitude towards a sport whose image has certainly been influenced by the doping scandals of recent years.
The results of the survey show that a great majority (79 percent) of the general public associated doping with the sport of cycling. In France, even 97 percent of the persons surveyed believe that cycling is the sport which is the most infiltrated by doping, whereas in Germany, 'only' 62 percent said so.
When asked if the doping problems in cycling concerned a majority of the riders, a minority, or only a few, the different perception of the French and the German public was even clearer: In France, 48 percent of the participating replied that they believed a majority of the peloton used banned substances in competition, whereas only 12 percent of the Germans believed so. In Germany, a majority of people (50 percent) answered that they thought only a few riders used doping.
The study also included a question on retroactive testing, which revealed that a total of 67 percent of those reviewed in the four countries was favourable to it, with the Spaniards slightly more reluctant (51 percent). In Italy, 50 percent of those surveyed said that it was impossible to do well in the Tour de France if one wasn't doped, whereas the French seemed more disillusioned: 71 percent believed it wasn't possible to achieve a high placing in their Grand Tour without the help of illegal products.
L'Equipe continued by editorialising on the "omerta" of the subject of doping which it said still reigned within the cycling sport and accused the International Cycling Union (UCI) and its new president, Pat McQuaid, to "take too prudent a stand when confronted with the survey." McQuaid, when interviewed by the paper on the research results, said that "most of the people who thought that cycling wasn't credible anymore were French (66 percent) - so I think there is a correlation between the media and public opinion, which is influenced." Nevertheless, Hein Verbruggen's successor knows that "doping is the sport's biggest problem" and that "the credibility of cycling is compromised."