By Susan Westemeyer
Ursula Riha, head of the Österreich Rundfahrt (Tour of Austria) which is still struggling to find sponsors for its 2009 edition, is determined to fight for her race and not see it destroyed by Austria's current doping scandals. Bernhard Kohl, winner of the mountains classification and third overall at the Tour de France last year, this week admitted that he blood doped with the help of his manager and the Humanplasma blood bank in Vienna. Moreover, another Austrian cyclist whose name was not released admitted to doping and dealing with drugs this week .
Looking at media reports of the present situation – with rumours also possibly linking former Gerolsteiner rider and fellow Austrian Georg Totschnig to the Viennese blood lab – she told Cyclingnews, "you have to ask yourself: why are you doing this? And especially, for whom?"
She noted that while she lays awake nights "trying to figure out how to finance and organise a sports event in these times," the athletes "still haven't figured it out. And actually they are the one who have to finally put an end to this madness."
Stopping now would be the wrong example, Riha said, thinking of the younger generation. "The important sports classes in the schools continue to be cut back, and parents are unsure as to whether they should let their children join sport clubs. What kind of perspective is that?"
Therefore, Riha said, she was in full support of the Austrian government's fight against doping. "I hope that this example will be followed all over Europe, and I will continue to do all I can to ensure that the 61-year-old Österreich Rundfahrt will continue."
Read more about Riha in Women in Men's Cycling.