By John Kenny
The Floyd Landis doping scandal has had an impact on cycling in Australia, according to race promoters, but the sport has the resilience to survive if appropriate steps are taken against drug cheats.
Phill Bates, organiser of the Commonwealth Bank Cycling Classic for almost two decades, said the Landis affair would have a greater impact on all levels of cycling than the 'Festina Affair' of 1998 - when nine Festina cyclists were detained by Lyon police after large quantities of doping products were found by customs agents earlier in the Tour.
"The impact is larger because it's the winner of the Tour," said Bates. "Riders have lost world championships retrospectively after they have been found to have taken drugs, but nothing compares to this.
"The Commonwealth Bank [stage race] ended prematurely in 2000 because the [title] sponsor got nervous and pulled out after the Festina Affair. This was a sponsor that had been with the race for 19 years. They withdrew despite the fact that the Bank classic had a good record [on doping]."
Victorian race organiser, John Craven, said that there has been some negative feedback from sponsors and that members of the media have repeatedly asked him to make a comment on the Landis affair. "It [the Landis doping scandal] is something that we [as race promoters] could do without", said Craven. "The fact that this has happened could cause terrible damage."
Conversely, Gennie Sheer of Cycling Australia said that its sponsors had not offered any negative feedback. "Our sponsors recognise that we have an outstanding record and they are obviously happy with the way that we are running things."
Despite the bad press that the sport has recently received, Craven believes that cycling has done more to fight doping than most other sports. "As long as cycling pursues the corrupt elements then cycling in the long term will be a giant winner," he said. "The metropolitan newspapers [in Melbourne] carry stories on the back page about [Australian Football] players who take pain-killing injections to get through games. In cycling this would be considered doping."
The best way to deal with drug cheats was financial penalties, according to Bates. "The UCI should pursue Landis aggressively for damages if he is found guilty. Bans do not work, riders should be [made financially accountable] for the impact that they have on the sport."
Craven said that he had spent up to $300,000 on drug testing the riders who have attended his events.
Cyclingnews' coverage of the Floyd Landis case
September 28, 2008 - Landis takes case to US federal court
September 10, 2008 - Landis signing with current Health Net-Maxxis team for 2009
July 1, 2008 - CAS delivers final blow to Landis legal challenge
June 30, 2008 - Landis loses final appeal
June 28, 2008 - Landis decision due Monday
March 12, 2008 - Landis' judgment day nears
October 21, 2007 - Landis files appeal with CAS
October 18, 2007 - AFLD takes another look at Landis case
Thursday, October 11 - Landis continues fight, appeals to CAS
Saturday, September 22 - UCI officially names Pereiro 2006 Tour champion, Landis case raises issues
Friday, September 21 - Landis' appeal denied, two year suspension levied