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California champion sick of negativity
The most successful edition of the Amgen Tour of California to date wrapped up on Sunday in Thousand Oaks, California, but the cloud that had formed over the race on Thursday thanks to the accusations made by Floyd Landis still bothered the overall champion Michael Rogers (Team HTC-Columbia) at the final press conference.
"I'm getting a little bit sick of this stuff," Rogers said after being asked another question about the effect of Landis' e-mails, which accused a number of riders including Lance Armstrong and his former US Postal team of doping.
"The sport has got to get away from negativity. Everyone has to pull their weight from the riders to the management to the race organizers, we all have to do everything we can to get away from the doping issue because it's killing the sport."
After a grueling final stage of the 800-mile race, Rogers, US Pro champion George Hincapie (BMC Racing Team), three-time Tour of California champion Levi Leipheimer (Team RadioShack) and race director Andrew Messick all seemed tired of the topic, which had distracted attention from the drama unfolding every day during the final three stages of the race.
Hincapie was still struggling to recover his voice after giving his all on the race's final stage only to come second in the sprint, but despite saying he didn't want to comment on his former teammate's accusations, he sent a message:
"I would like to say that there isn't anyone out there who wants a clean sport more than me. I'm out there suffering day in, day out. I sacrifice everything, my family - I don't see my kids that much, and when I'm home I train 5, 6, 7 hours a day and I give everything for this sport," Hincapie said.
He continued, saying he didn't understand Landis' motivations for making the claims. "Personally, I would never want to bring harm on anyone or intentionally try to be malicious to anyone so I don't understand it."
Rogers, asked about the Landis case distracting from the race after the stage to Big Bear Lake, wanted to redirect the attention from the sport's doping past to the huge efforts the riders had been making over the course of this year's Tour of California. "You have to bring out the beautiful things about the sport, the great achievements, the heroic efforts. There are things that are beautiful about this sport."
Leipheimer, too, focused on the future rather than address Landis' accusations. He opined that he felt the sport was moving in the right direction, saying, "I think it's ironic the headlines we read go against the reality of the sport. I think cycling is much, much cleaner than in the past. There's no denying the fact that cycling has had its problems, but despite what we've seen this week, I really believe in cycling. I think it's fair and it's clean and I believe in the winner of this race, and I believe in everyone who participated in this race."
Messick, whose company AEG is involved in a number of sporting events outside cycling, took a wider view comparing the complacency by the media when confronted by drug use in major US sports to the treatment of the topic of doping in cycling.
"I think cycling does more as a sport than anyone else, but we get held to a different standard by fans and certainly to a different standard by the media," Messick said. "In cycling, people get vilified in the media. But in other American sports someone can fail a drug test the media vote him the equivalent of best young rider. I think it's a fairly substantive inconsistency.
"I think that for sports that fall under WADA and most importantly American sports, relatively speaking there is a stricter set of repercussions for people with doping violations, and there is very little mercy. Whereas in larger American sports the rules are less clear, penalties are less severe, and the media tend not to care and I think it's a pity for the athletes."