Calls for an amnesty for cycling drug cheats are ''premature'', Australian Sports Commission chief executive Simon Hollingsworth said yesterday.
Hollingsworth said he did not support calls for an amnesty in the beleaguered sport, to allow cheating athletes the opportunity to be purged from the profession.
''In relation to calls for an amnesty, I believe it is premature,'' he said. ''It is important that we send a clear message that any doping is unacceptable, and an amnesty would be inconsistent with that.''
On Saturday, Matt White stepped down from his role as the coach of the national men's road team and as the sports director of Orica-GreenEDGE after admitting he had been part of a doping culture with disgraced cycling champion Lance Armstrong.
''I am sad to say that I was part of a team where doping formed part of the team's strategy, and I too was involved in that strategy,'' White said. ''My involvement is something I am not proud of, and I sincerely apologise to my fans, media, family and friends who trusted me and also to other athletes in my era that consciously chose not to dope.''
However, White insisted that supporters of the sport should be confident in its integrity.
''The approach that many riders of my generation had cannot be repeated, and I believe that cycling now has the most rigorous and complete testing regimes of any sport,'' he said.
Despite the cynicism now surrounding the sport, federal Sport Minister Kate Lundy said: ''Now, more than ever before, doping cheats will be caught.
''I share the disappointment of cycling fans who feel let down by the news that some of their sporting idols were doping.
''The Australian government, through ASADA, is committed to protecting the health of athletes and the integrity of Australian sport through the elimination of doping. ASADA is constantly improving their techniques and tools, including their investigations and intelligence capabilities, long-term storage facilities and profiling approaches.''
Hollingsworth said only this could maintain the sport's success.
"I believe that maintaining the integrity of sport is a critical issue,'' he said. ''People have a right to believe in sport and the authenticity of those athletes competing. Issues such as this have a negative impact on sport as a whole and especially on all the other clean athletes striving for success.''
He said government funding was conditional on sports adhering to and enforcing anti-doping requirements. Any sport that failed to do so put their funding at risk, he said. ''The commission will be watching the actions of Cycling Australia closely."
- The Age