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Transcript Of Stephen Roche Interview About Doping In Cycling At The Launch Of The Irish Giro

Transcript Of Stephen Roche Interview About Doping In Cycling At The Launch Of The Irish Giro
By Darren Cleary Updated

The 97th staging of the Giro D'Italia will begin at the Titanic quarter in Belfast before crossing the border for a stage finish in Dublin in May 2014.

The stages will involve routes taking in Belfast, Armagh and the capitol. The Giro is one of the world's largest sporting events, it attracts more than 12.5 million spectators every year.

The ghosts of the 1998 Tour De France which began in Ireland and the doping scandal that followed, seemed to have been forgotten when the Giro was officially launched in Dublin yesterday.

More than 200 of the world's top professional cyclists from across the globe will take part in the race. There is a strong Irish connection with the Giro, Stephen Roche won it in 1987.

He was on hand for the launch yesterday, and from the warm welcome he received at the Dublin City Council offices, and the fawning tributes paid to him by those in attendance. It’s hard to believe that a dark cloud of doubt is still hanging over his greatest achievement.

It has been 25 years since Roche defied all odds and claimed a spectacular triple crown win, but he still cannot escape accusations of doping.

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Stephen Roche’s name appeared in the Conconi files, a list of professional athletes who were administered EPO by the doping doctor, Francesco Conconi. In 2000, an Italian judicial investigation concluded that a sample of his blood contained EPO. It came from 1993, Roche’s last year as a professional cyclist.

Given the fact that the sport's brightest spotlight is shining on cycling and that the deep routed drugs problems have been exposed, you would assume that Roche’s well-documented views on drug abuse within his beloved sport would have evolved after all the revelations.

You’d be wrong. Roche says the sport of cycling has changed in the past decade. He reckons doping is a thing of the past.

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I was among a group of reporters who spoke with Stephen Roche as the launch of the Giro D’Italia. These are his responses to questions about doping.

Question: With all the negative events that have happened in cycling in the last 10 years, is this the start of a new chapter?

Stephen Roche: The chapter has already started for the last 5 years, it’s unfortunate that the Armstrong affair has come about now and everything else but I think the last 5 years it has been getting better and better. Every year on now it will get even better, I think last year's tour with Bradley Wiggins winning it is a statement in itself. The kids look to it today and say, yes you can do a Tour de France and do a season without doping.

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Do you think Alberto Contador with his past, is welcomed back on the circuit?

Stephen Roche: Of course he is, otherwise you can close up shop and go and watch a football match. There are so many things that have happened in cycling over the last couple of years you gotta draw a line and go on. I think Contador between now and next year, there will be a lot of water under the bridge as well. His situation is very difficult, was he guilty, was he not guilty? He was probably guilty because he couldn’t prove himself innocent. At the same time he has taken his punishment on the chin, he’s coming back, he’s racing now and already up in the top 5 in the Tour of Oman last week. Contador is a great rider and enthusiasts do recognize a great champion. There are some riders who cheat and they’re well known, those riders might get whistled, okay, but generally in cycling we get on with it.

Question: You mentioned that the new chapter has started and some negatives have been put to bed, is it important to be vigilant and not ignore the past because complacency is what led to doping being rife for so long?

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Stephen Roche: You can never wipe it out, it will always be there. The most important thing is that people are conscious of it now, and the young kids have been educated for the last 10 years and they don’t cheat. A guy 10 years ago was 15-years-old, now he’s 25 so for the important years of his amateur career he’s been told you don’t cheat, you don’t cheat. If you cheat you will be caught. That’s where the good has been done in the last 5 years it’s been drummed into the kids, you don’t cheat. Then you have the biological passport and the whereabouts system, you cant say it hasn’t happened. It has happened and it’s been very damaging. Why do people say there hasn’t been any problems in football, yet in football they’re asking for a biological passport. if there's no problems why are they asking for a biological passport?

Don’t keep throwing stones at cycling, it has its problems but they’re doing their utmost to make it better.

Do you think cycling is being picked on?

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Stephen Roche: Yes, it’s a very easy target. It is being picked on. Could you imagine a similar scandal erupting in football. If the stadiums were all empty, an awful lot more money is lost and it hurts a lot more people, whereas if cycling goes down it doesn’t matter, people lose their jobs buts it’s no big deal. If football was hit or tennis was hit it would be a major bad coup for anyone involved in it.

Darren Cleary is a sports broadcaster who can be heard on Dublin's FM104 and works as a sideline reporter on Setanta Sports’ Allianz league GAA and Setanta Sports Cup coverage.

@radiocleary

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