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Tour de France Wednesday, 29 July, 1998, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK
Obree: I was offered drugs on Tour
Graeme Obree
Graeme Obree was one of Britain's top sprint cyclists
Britain's former world pursuit champion Graeme Obree has said he was asked to give money for "medical back-up" when he considered riding the Tour de France.

The offer came from an English-speaking cyclist who was certainly offering drugs, he said.

Obree, who set a one-hour record five years ago, was moved to break his silence on the "culture of the needle" by the controversy on this year's Tour.

The 32-year-old Scot, who decided not to enter the race at a cost to him of about 90,000 a year, said the sport must be cleaned up.

"I would have loved to have ridden in the Tour but I have no regrets. I am sad for the riders, they are victims of their psychological dependence on drugs.

"Ironically, if they all use it, no-one has an advantage. The best will still win without it."

Offer was 'tempting'

Graeme Obree
Obree: Felt "uncomfortable" with drugs
He admitted the offer in 1995 was tempting for a new professional but he "stuck to his guns" and later withdrew because he did not have a chance against the drug-users.

He told The Express newspaper: "I felt uncomfortable with the whole thing and I explained the bottom line was that if any of the others were doing it then that was up to them. I definitely would not."

The offer took the form of a 2,000 donation for "medical back-up".

He said: "There was no question at all of what medical back-up was for.

"We were soon discussing the drugs required and the main one was EPO - a type of growth hormone which stimulates the production of red blood cells.

"The rider explained it was no big deal. It was the professional way and when I explained I was worried about deaths because of the way EPO thickens the blood, he said there were no problems."

Tour descends into chaos

His comments were followed by further controversy in the Tour de France, where the 17th stage was nullified by a rider protest.

The Festina team has already been thrown off the Tour after its alleged drug programme was revealed and TVM is currently the subject of a police investigation.

But the British Cycling Federation hopes the Tour scandal might be the catalyst to bring about a much-needed clear-out of the sport to restore its credibility.

General Secretary of the BCF, Jim Hendry, said: "It's tainted the sport and we all feel very sad, but it's good news for cycling in the long term and for the future participants if it's seen to be a real new broom sweeping the sport clean."

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