'Our sport has been damaged by drugs cheat Armstrong'
THE Grimsby area's cycling community reacted with anger at Lance Armstrong's admission he took drugs – but many always suspected he was a cheat.
Armstrong ended years of denials by admitting he used performance-enhancing drugs during all seven of his Tour de France wins.
The 41-year-old confessed during his interview with chat show host Oprah Winfrey in front of a worldwide television audience.
Steve Ettridge, who has been involved with cycling for 45 years – first as a rider and then as a shop owner in Grimsby – said: "People used to look up to him as a hero – what he has done has damaged the sport.
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"People either loved him or disliked him, there was no indifference towards him.
"Those who idolised him have found it hard to accept – but I always thought at the time he was probably on drugs. "He was beating other riders who it later became known were doping themselves, so it made me suspicious.
"I found it difficult to accept he was doing it all drugs-free."
Armstrong was not alone in doping of course – a large proportion of Tour de France winners from the early 1980s to the present have been found to have used drugs.
Ettridge continued: "There were guys who absolutely refused to take drugs at that time, but unfortunately they fell by the wayside.
"I think a lot were riding clean, but they were not competitive.
"I hope the guys who are racing now are clean. I believe they are – but you just never know.
"Competitions are more open and times are a lot slower than they were.
"Some stages of the Tour de France were being won in speeds averaging 30mph a few years ago, but those stages are now won at closer to the 24mph average mark, which is more believable.
"Drugs has been a problem in cycling for a long time, but at least the authorities are trying hard to clean it up. It is difficult. People are always coming up with new innovations in performance enhancement that are well ahead of the testers.
"I do not know if it will ever go away. When there is so much money at stake, there will always be those who try to cheat the system".
Phil Bell, member of Lindsey Roads Cycling Club was angry at the news – but again, was not surprised.
"It is terrible, but there were always suspicions, especially among older members of our club," he said.
"A lot of people could not believe it was possible to win the Tour de France seven times the way he did.
"It is very disappointing, as he was so well-known throughout the world.
"He was a hero figure, and got people into cycling in a big way.
"He got off his death bed to beat cancer and raised millions for charity – but now we know he was a cheat.
"It is bad for cycling as many people will now assume anyone who has achieved something really good is on drugs.
"A few years ago, when Armstrong was at his peak, drug-taking was widespread – but testing is a lot better now. Riders get tested after every race is won, and there are random checks at other times too. I am confident people like Bradley Wiggins are clean.
"Hopefully this issue will not stop more people from getting involved in cycling as it is a growing sport."