x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Australian cyclist Stuart O'Grady could be stripped of Olympic medals

Admission to using performance-enhancing drugs at the 1998 Tour de France will tarnish legacy of athlete known as 'a fantastic competitor'.

Happier times for Australian Olympic cyclist Stuart O’Grady, left, include winning a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games. O’Grady, who made a 17th appearance in the Tour de France this July, admitted to be one of the 12 riders caught using EPO in the 1998 Tour. Doug Pensinger / Getty Images
Happier times for Australian Olympic cyclist Stuart O’Grady, left, include winning a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games. O’Grady, who made a 17th appearance in the Tour de France this July, admitted to be one of the 12 riders caught using EPO in the 1998 Tour. Doug Pensinger / Getty Images

SYDNEY // The Australian cyclist Stuart O'Grady could be stripped of his Olympic medals after admitting to using performance-enhancing drugs at the 1998 Tour de France.

O'Grady, who retired this week, told a newspaper that he had used the banned blood-booster erythropoietin (EPO) before the notorious 1998 Tour. The admission came after a French senate inquiry named him among riders with "suspicious" test results in a damning report into the 1998 race.

A successful Olympic track cyclist, O'Grady won a gold medal at the 2004 Athens Games, following a team pursuit silver at the 1992 Barcelona Games and a pair of bronzes at Atlanta in 1996.

"It's sad," said Mike Tancred, spokesman for the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC). "He won't be remembered as a fantastic competitor that we all thought he was. Instead he'll be remembered as an athlete who succumbed to the temptation of drugs in sport just to get an edge on his fellow riders.

"In regard to his medals, it's a matter for the international federation, so the UCI (International Cycling Union) will consider the medals and they will then make some recommendation to the IOC (International Olympic Commission). The AOC had already called on O'Grady to step down from its Athletes' Commission, a 10-member advisory body comprised of respected athletes.

"Members of our London Olympic team … are entitled to be angry knowing they had supported an athlete who had cheated," the AOC president John Coates said.

O'Grady, one of Australia's most celebrated cyclists, could also stand to lose his three national citations including an Order of Australia Medal awarded in 2005.

The French senate inquiry found the top two finishers at the 1998 tour – the Italian Marco Pantani and Germany's Jan Ullrich – were among 18 riders who had tested positive for EPO.

O'Grady was among 12 riders whose tests were said to be "suspicious" and he did not waste time confirming he had used EPO to the Adelaide Advertiser, insisting he had acted alone in sourcing it.

He announced his retirement on Tuesday after helping his GreenEdge team to a time-trial victory in this year's Tour, his 17th appearance, tying George Hincapie's record. He had been expected to race in 2014 and push for a record 18th Tour. GreenEdge said it supported O'Grady "as a person and an advocate for a clean sport".

"Like the majority of the riders in his generation, he was also exposed to the issues and wrongdoings of the sport and made some wrong choices in that environment," said Shayne Bannan, the GreenEdge general manager.

Cycling Australia also declined to condemn O'Grady. "The late 1990s was clearly a dark period in cycling's international history," the governing body said in a statement.

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