Cycling still not free of cheats, says Roulston

HAYDEN ROULSTON: The 32-year-old Cantabrian has won his third national road race title.
HAYDEN ROULSTON: The 32-year-old Cantabrian has won his third national road race title.

Hayden Roulston has been dealing with a painful hand injury, but it's the sport he loves that is really hurting at the moment.

As cycling is forced to exorcise its drug-riddled past in the wake of the Lance Armstrong saga, Roulston has had time to reflect on the direction the sport is taking.

He believes the opportunity exists for pure, drug-free cycling to emerge but only if the right leadership is taken immediately and only when more of the sport's shady characters are exposed.

"Every single pro cyclist has known all along what it was like to win those big races back then.

"I guess it's more like reality now. [Armstrong's] done wrong and he definitely doped but all those guys are just as bad as each other. It frustrates me that some of those guys there are in the pro peloton now, think they are so perfect pointing the finger, are on million-dollar contracts, but how did they get to that point?

"If I was the big boss of cycling, I'd zero out everyone's contract, put it all in a big bin and divide it up amongst every pro cyclist.

"From the start of 2013 you earn your money."

It hasn't been easy for Roulston to watch as Armstrong, his cycling hero and a former team-mate, has been so brutally brought to earth by the anti-doping investigation, his subsequent banning from the sport, and the stripping of his seven Tour de France titles by the International Cycling Union.

"There are still guys that have won races clean, don't get me wrong, but in those big tours, that was different. Now you see Evans and Wiggins coming through, they are pure riders, I think.

"I won a couple of years ago as well, so I can't say things are going to be easier but I do think it's going to make the peloton wake up and really take notice that this is serious s..t. It's going to take training and nutrition, all that sort of stuff that you might neglect, to another level."

Michele Ferrari, the controversial sports doctor behind Armstrong and other riders suspected of doping, remained at large and cycling could not move on until he was expunged from the peloton, Roulston said.

"If they don't bust this Ferrari investigation open and clean that out ... it's going to make Lance's scandal look like a pimple.

"There's guys in that investigation that go through every single pro team right now and that's the harsh reality of it.

"I'm not afraid to say it but a lot of riders probably will be."

Roulston is adamant he has never been pressured to take performance-enhancing drugs during his career.

"Never, ever have I had any pressure but it would have been very easy if I'd wanted to.

"If I chose to dope next year, and I only did it for one year and my contract went up to [€] 600,000, it would be nice and rosy for however long.

"Then if I got caught I could say the [2008] Olympics I did clean [but] everything you do up until you get caught is wiped, no-one will ever believe you."

While Roulston believes an entrenched attitude remains among European riders in the peloton, there was a doping stigma among riders from New Zealand, Australia, England and, ironically, the United States, that was another level of deterrent.

"There's never a way back, your family is tarnished - especially in New Zealand.

"There's so much more you can lose other than a couple of races you test positive in."

Roulston has been recovering from a hand injury he suffered during a crash in the Tour of Beijing. It had put him in doubt for the Tour of Southland beginning on Sunday but he will now take his place in a strong Calder Stewart team.

He will rejoin the Radioshack Nissan Trek team next season after signing another one-year deal and is hoping to build on a season he rates as solid but not spectacular.

"It might not look good on paper but actually it was my most consistent season.

"I was always there or thereabouts. I never quite fired exactly as I wanted to but it gave me a lot of belief for next year," he said.

The Southland Times