Cadel Evans is a true champion whose Tour de France triumph last year should not be tarnished by the doping revelations that have rocked cycling last week, former professional cyclist Tyler Hamilton says.
Hamilton, among 11 former teammates whose testimony led to a life ban imposed on seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, lamented yesterday that his era, the decade from the mid-1990s, was rife with doping.
But despite his belief that there were ''still a lot of bad apples'' in the sport, he said Evans's historic victory was beyond question.
''I think you have to question some of the results of the past, [but] I don't think you have to question Cadel Evans's result from last year's Tour de France,'' Hamilton told Channel Nine yesterday.
''From what I've heard about Cadel Evans, he's a true champion. He's always been a big anti-doping advocate. I can't say anything negative about Cadel Evans ... I've a lot of respect for Cadel Evans.''
One of Evans's teammates, recently retired American rider George Hincapie, is among those to have admitted doping while riding with Armstrong's US Postal team, which ruled the Tour de France from 1999 to 2005, but he said he rode clean from then on.
Cycling analysts have noted that average times during Evans's tour win were significantly slower than those when Armstrong dominated.
Hamilton stated his belief that most tour riders from his era, before his own two-year suspension for blood doping in 2004, were guilty of cheating to some degree.
That group includes Matt White, one of the most influential figures in Australian cycling, who retired in 2007 but on Saturday confessed to doping during his time with US Postal.
He stood down from his positions as sports director for the Australian Orica-GreenEDGE team and Cycling Australia's men's road racing co-ordinator after being implicated in what was described as the ''most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen'' by the US Anti-Doping Agency.
''Unfortunately it is the dark part of cycling and the dark culture. That era doping was just all around,'' Hamilton said. ''At least 80 per cent of the peloton back 10, 12 years ago were doping to some degree.
''The guys who rode in that dark era of cycling, I would not be surprised if they did participate in doping. Now that I'm older and wiser, yeah I made the wrong choice. But at that time when I was young, 24, 25 years old, these older doctors came to me and said I need to do this for my career.
''We all were put into this position. So as for the Australian cyclists, I'm sure they were all put in that position at one point.''
Hamilton said there were still riders competing who had doping pasts and he believed the only way for the sport to advance was to learn from past mistakes.
''Unfortunately there still are a lot of bad apples in the sport today,'' Hamilton said.
''If we don't figure out what happened in the past, how it happened, why it happened and how we can prevent it from happening in the future, how do we know it's not going to happen again in two or three more years?''