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Last Updated: Friday, 6 July 2007, 15:46 GMT 16:46 UK
You can win clean, says Cavendish
By Matt Slater

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish's colleagues are hoping to carry him to glory in Canterbury
Britain's Mark Cavendish believes his rapid rise in the professional ranks this year is proof that you do not need to cheat to achieve cycling success.

The 22-year-old sprinter forced his way into T-Mobile's Tour de France team thanks to a remarkable run of results.

But as well as winning six times this season, Cavendish has scooped headlines for his outspoken anti-doping stance.

"The sport has a bad name at the moment but I hope I have proved that you can win clean," he told BBC Sport.

Professional road racing has endured a horrible spell of high-profile doping scandals that have seen many of the sport's biggest names exposed as cheats.
Cavendish's British compatriot David Millar told BBC Sport this week that the sport was in a "complete mess" and "will get worse before it gets better".

The Saunier Duval rider, one of the favourites for Saturday's prologue in Hyde Park, admitted taking the banned blood-booster EPO in 2004, served a two-year ban and has returned to the circuit as an ardent anti-doping campaigner.

But Cavendish is more optimistic about cycling's immediate future than Millar.

Speaking at the T-Mobile Team's press launch on Friday, Cavendish said: "Cycling can't bury its head in the sand about its problems but at least the sport is doing something about it now.

Mark knows his public stance might not win him many friends in the peloton but he is out there to win races, not friends

Bob Stapleton
T-Mobile general manager
"You get people who will cheat in all sports and all walks of life. But you also get people with talent who don't cheat.

"I just hope that this Tour will show everybody, particularly in the UK, what a beautiful and brilliant sport cycling is."

Cavendish, already a world and Commonwealth champion on the track, demonstrated his commitment to drug-free cycling when he became the first rider to sign the International Cycling Union's (UCI) much-publicised anti-doping charter last month.

The document contains a promise to submit DNA samples to Spanish authorities in the Operation Puerto investigation as well as a pledge to donate a year's salary in the event of a positive test for a banned substance.

But it is not legally binding, and many riders have criticised the UCI's actions and been deeply reluctant to sign the charter.

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish is one of cycling's form sprinters in a superb debut season
The Tour de France's organisers, however, backed the document, saying it was compulsory for entry into this year's race. As a result, the UCI was able to announce on Friday that all 189 riders in the race have now signed it.

A product of British Cycling's successful Olympic Academy, Cavendish has been rigorously tested for years. And now, as a T-Mobile rider, he is subject to the most stringent anti-doping measures in professional sport.

T-Mobile's general manager Bob Stapleton said the German-based team conducts its own tests above and beyond those the riders are required to do by the UCI, world cycling's governing body, and by the German cycling authorities.

Stapleton, who was appointed as team boss in the aftermath of last year's Operation Puerto doping scandal, said the sport's overdue attempts to tackle its problems were the result of "economic realities".

And he described the blood-volume and blood-chemistry tests the team does as the "cheapest form of insurance" the well-financed outfit could have.

I have a chance and bunch sprints are what I love - it's why I'm in this sport

Mark Cavendish
"There is a growing realisation that there is no alternative but to take serious and dramatic action against doping," said the 49-year-old American. "You have seen the list of sponsors leaving the sport."

Stapleton also revealed that the UCI asked T-Mobile if Cavendish would be willing to back it's anti-doping charter first. And he admitted that such outspoken views about drugs have not always gone down well with the other riders.

"I think they wanted Mark because of what he represents - a young, fresh talent from a recognised anti-doping background," said Stapleton.

"But Mark knows his public stance might not win him many friends in the peloton, we've spoken to him about that.

"I don't think that worries him at all, though. His attitude, and he's not the only one, is that he is out there to win races, not friends."

Mark Cavendish
Cavendish gave notice of his amazing pace at the Scheldeprijs
On that subject, Cavendish's fellow sprinter and good friend Bernhard Eisel confirmed that the entire team would be working for the young Brit in Sunday's first stage, which is almost guaranteed to end in a bunch sprint.

Cavendish admitted he was desperate to deliver a victory for the huge crowds expected in Canterbury but acknowledged this was a major step-up in competition for him.

"There are six or seven 100% sprinters in the field that have a great chance - guys like Erik Zabel and Robbie McEwen - but you have to respect every rider in the peloton," he said.

"But with the best lead-out man in the world in Bernhard I have a chance and bunch sprints are what I love. It's why I'm in this sport."

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