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Tour Down Under director: It’s a pretty serious kick in the guts
Tour Down Under's race director Mike Turtur had previously stated there were "no regrets" regarding the reported multi-million dollar appearance fee paid to Lance Armstrong in 2009, 2010 and 2011 however, the past weeks and yesterday's decision by the UCI to hand Armstrong a lifetime ban has perhaps shifted his opinion of the former Tour de France winner.
"It's a pretty serious kick in the guts," Turtur told Cyclingnews. "It's maybe the biggest one I've had during my time in cycling. It's not only Armstrong, it's a host of others too that were part of it."
"There would be many race directors throughout the world who would be feeling a level of disappointment and being duped about his participation in the Tour de France - a whole host of races.
Turtur adds that the Tour Down Under benefited from having Armstrong at the opening WorldTour round of the season and that despite any criticism he has always acted in the best interest of the race. However, in light of the information delivered in the past weeks, things could have been very different.
"At that time when he came to the race here it was a situation that presented itself where many people thought would benefit. It turned out that way but with the benefit of hindsight obviously if the same events were to happen at that time this would not have happened. These events and the information wasn't available. You have to be fair in your analysis of that situation and at that time when all this happened there wasn't the same information available to make a judgement."
Asked if race attendance would be impacted due to the decision by the UCI to ban Armstrong for life and strip him of his Tour de France wins, Turtur replied "No, I don't. I think people will see that we acted in the best interest of the race all the time and that is; professionally, respecting the rules and regulations that govern the sport and trying to manage and deliver a race of the highest quality. That's been our objective from year one.
"The race has grown over the fifteen year period that we'll celebrate in 2013, to a degree that we are part of the WorldTour. We started as a 2.2 event and we worked hard and made sure every aspect was at the level acceptable by the UCI and teams. I'm sure the race is stronger, big enough now to be successful into the future. I think people will enjoy the race as they have done previously in 2013 with the great spectacle that it is."
As far as Turtur is concerned all of the race sponsors are still very much committed to backing the race next year and he was busy attempting to draw some of the sport's biggest stars to the race in January.
"Not that I'm aware of. I haven't been advised of any," he told Cyclingnews regarding the possibility of sponsors pulling out in the wake of the Armstrong decision.
"We are working on possibilities with teams and certain individuals coming to Australia, to really make the race very exciting. Hopefully within the coming weeks we can make some more announcements about that. I've got great confidence the race will be stronger and better - the sport will survive and will be bigger and better. We have an opportunity as the president [of the UCI] said yesterday ‘to really make a mark now and move forward'. And that's what we'll do," Turtur said.
Hamilton and Landis
Turtur spoke to Cyclingnews in late May following the CBS "60 Minutes" report featuring Tyler Hamilton and was firm in his stance regarding what were allegations against Armstrong at the time. "I don't believe anything that Hamilton or Landis says. They can't be believed," said the race director. However, following the release of USADA's report into systematic doping at US Postal and Discovery Turtur had "no comment on Armstrong".
Turtur reiterated those sentiments when asked, following the UCI's decision, whether his opinion on the riders who rode alongside Armstrong had changed.
"I think they proved to be perjurers themselves. In regard to guys like Zabriske, Hincapie and so on, their credibility outstrips anything Landis and Hamilton said. Landis and Hamilton both lied to grand juries and also the UCI when questioned on matters of the past. As far as the others are concerned I acknowledge they have a level of knowledge that needed to be known by the authorities and they were able to provide it. I applaud them for that, it has helped bring this thing to a head, and we can deal with it and move on."