Mark Cavendish defends cycling's anti-doping efforts
Cavendish on a busy 2010, his hopes for 2011 and the fight against doping
By Matt Slater
British sprint star Mark Cavendish says cycling is unfairly singled out for doping issues and is cleaner than ever.
Recent months have witnessed a fresh round of negative headlines for the sport as a number of big names have been implicated in doping cases.
But Cavendish denies this means cycling's bad old days are back.
"I think cycling is being victimised because it wants to be a clean sport," the 25-year-old Tour de France sensation said.
"The fact that I can win bike races shows that I'm playing on a level playing field.
"I don't know the actions of others but I do know cycling is unfairly criticised.
"I think it's great that dopers get caught. It shows we're actively working for a clean sport and not just sweeping our problems under the carpet so the image of the sport stays nice."
We just don't know if (Alberto Contador) cheated or not but I hope it's sorted out soon - and sorted out fairly, for the sport, fans and riders
Cavendish, who was speaking at the UK premiere of Chasing Legends, a fly-in-the-team-car documentary about the 2009 Tour de France, has been a prominent advocate of cycling's efforts to clean up its image ever since he joined the professional ranks in 2006.
Since then the sport has pioneered the use of 'biological passports', increased the amount of out-of-competition testing it does and continued to look for new ways of catching cheats.
But a spate of high-profile cases this year have taken the sheen off the undoubted progress.
News last month that three-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador tested positive for a banned substance during this year's race was a major blow, particularly as it was quickly followed by positive tests for two other leading Spanish riders.
And the negative headlines were not just limited to Spain.
Alessandro Petacchi, the man who narrowly beat Cavendish to this year's points prize at the Tour de France, is one of a number of Italian riders currently under investigation for possible doping, and Contador's predecessor as the world's best cyclist, Lance Armstrong, is the subject of a federal inquiry in the US.
But Cavendish, who enjoyed another superb year in the saddle, is adamant the sport is cleaner than it was a decade ago and points to the higher frequency of bunch sprints in the major tours as evidence of this; his reasoning being that riders are less able now to launch long, solo breaks.
He also added his voice to those who have called for Contador to be treated as innocent until proven otherwise, pointing out that the amounts of clenbuterol found in the Spaniard's system were minuscule.
"We just don't know if he cheated or not but I hope it's sorted out soon," said Cavendish. "And sorted out fairly, for the sport, fans and riders."
This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.