Kiwi Olympic bronze medallist Jesse Sergent says drug-tainted Lance Armstrong has done nothing but good for New Zealand cycling.
A United States Anti Doping Agency (USADA) report has claimed that the American, who won seven Tour de France titles since 1999, is guilty of drug cheating.
Sergent, from Feilding, returned to Manawatu for the first time since winning bronze at the London Olympics.
He rides for the Radioshack-Nissan-Trek team and hadn't heard too much during his time as a professional cyclist this year about the Armstrong scandal or about doping.
"I wasn't riding a bike then," he said.
"I ride a bike now and those stories that you hear, it's like I'm doing a different sport. Some of the stuff you hear these days. The two years I've been professional I haven't, it's completely different.''
He hadn't been approached by anyone about doping or heard of it going on at competitions he's been at.
"Nothing like that. It's 10-15 years ago. I was nine years old then. It's a little bit sad the riders have to deal with it when it's nothing to do with us and who knows really."
Sergent said it was a shame Armstrong, the former golden boy of the sport, had suffered such a fall from grace.
"Whenever I'd get a questionnaire and you have to put in your idol, it would be for me, Lance Armstrong," Sergent said.
"Growing up and getting into cycling, it was always him and you watch him attack in the Tour de France and all that stuff it's what got I'm sure millions of people into cycling."
But just because Armstrong may be a drugs cheat, it didn't put him in Sergent's bad books.
"There's also the things he's done, not only in cycling. With the Livestrong which our team still promotes.
"The Livestrong cancer foundation. There's the other things outside of cycling which are massive things. I'm sure he saved millions of peoples lives and at the end of the day that's more important than cycling."
During Armstrong's comeback to international cycling he rode for the same team as Sergent in 2010-11 but it was before Sergent joined the team.
Before that, Sergent rode for Armstrong's Trek-Livestrong team for two years, which is a development squad for turning young riders into professionals.
"He's helped all the guys in the Livestrong team and then he started Radioshack and bought them into the cycling world along with Nissan.
"So the team last year and the year before and probably this year wouldn't have existed without him. So the only thing he's done for me is helped me."
And that wasn't the only good Sergent thought he had done.
"Not only me, there's three Kiwis on the team now. There's George Bennett and Hayden Roulston and also Sam Bewley who rode for team Livestrong as well.
"If you look at it that way there's four New Zealanders, he's helped New Zealand cycling in a way."
Armstrong has always responded to doping accusations with the fact that he has never failed a drug test.
But the USADA released a report on Armstrong last week which has witness testimony, financial records and lab results that prove Armstrong is guilty and shows him to be a ringleader in doping systems.
- Manawatu Standard
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