O'Grady: Doping was never an option
Australian stalwart says Orica GreenEdge stronger for White controversy
Stuart O'Grady admits that the doping admission of Matt White and his sacking has meant for difficult times at Orica GreenEdge.
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O'Grady is one of a handful of riders who could potentially be interviewed for three of the separate Australian investigations currently stemming from the USADA's Reasoned Decision document on Lance Armstrong's lifetime ban, and told Cyclingnews that the Australian Anti-Doping Authority has already come knocking.
Along with ASADA, the Australian Sports Commission has also mounted an inquiry led by Justice James Wood, while Orica GreenEdge has begun its own investigations, dealing more with internal procedures headed by former World Anti-Doping Agency director Nicki Vance.
"Yeah it's uncomfortable because I'm getting asked a lot of questions which I have absolutely no idea about," O'Grady admitted. "It's uncomfortable because I'm very happy with my career and what I've achieved and some of it's pretty hard to swallow.
"At the end of the day, I've been available whenever they want to talk and I'm happy to tell them everything that I know - most of the time I'm not going to have any of the answers that they're hoping for or want - but hopefully I can give an insight into my life and my world and the teams and the people that I was around."
Throughout his 18-year career, O'Grady has ridden with some of the teams that have found themselves under the most scrutiny in recent memory - specifically Cofidis and CSC/Saxo Bank. Like former Saxo teammate Brad McGee before him, O'Grady is adamant that despite the stigma, he saw no evidence of a doping culture.
"I'm just very lucky, very fortunate that the teams I was involved in that it [doping] was never an option," the 39-year-old told Cyclingnews. "It was never on the table. I think that has a lot to do with the people around you and the team bosses - they had a very different mentality to some others."
O'Grady explained that the revelations of the past few months had left him with "mixed emotions" but he overwhelmingly felt "disappointed in the sport" thanks mainly to the scale of the anti-doping infractions.
"I was never a mountain climber and I just thought that losing half an hour a day was stock-standard," he said. "I was more of a sprinter so I did more sprint training. I never did mountain training. To be getting my arse kicked every Tour I just figured that was kind of normal. Obviously things weren't normal..."
The release of the Reasoned Decision documentation resulted in the sacking of Orica GreenEdge sports director, Matt White despite the same evidence being in the public domain since 2010 when Floyd Landis sent an email to USA Cycling chief executive officer Steve Johnson. Orica GreenEdge appear to be on the front foot when it comes to their own anti-doping policies, with team owner Gerry Ryan boasting of the €200,000 internal testing spend on Wednesday, but White's case seems to have been divisive.
"It's difficult, I'm just a bike rider and you've just got to roll with the punches," O'Grady admitted when asked if he was happy about the way the team handled the USADA fallout. "What gets decided by management is out of my league.
"As a unit and a group of riders we're stronger than ever. We understand there's pressure from higher above that causes these types of decisions to be made but as a group of bike riders we're more motivated than ever and we want to come out firing next year."
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As a sports journalist and producer since 1997, Jane has covered Olympic and Commonwealth Games, rugby league, motorsport, cricket, surfing, triathlon, rugby union, and golf for print, radio, television and online. However her enduring passion has been cycling.
Jane is a former Australian Editor of Cyclingnews from 2011 to 2013 and continues to freelance within the cycling industry.