Four-times world champion triathlete Chris McCormack was "very offended" when it was suggested to him that he was taking performance-enhancing drugs.
McCormack, an Australian with 200 triathlon victories to his name, strongly supported the life ban on Lance Armstrong competing as a professional cyclist, during an interview yesterday.
McCormack is in New Zealand for Challenge Wanaka tomorrow, an iron-distance 3.8 kilometre swim, 180km bike ride and 42.2km run.
He said Armstrong had tainted the sport and wrecked the dreams and careers of many world-class cyclists who opposed drug cheating and had stood up to him.
Armstrong had sent a dangerous message to young athletes that they could "get away with" using performance-enhancing drugs and now another message had to be sent, that drug cheats would be punished.
McCormack said he was first exposed to the fact that triathletes may be using performance-enhancing drugs after a race in Spain in the mid-90s, at which he finished a "disappointing" fifth.
The coach of a Spanish athlete asked him what "medicine" he was taking, to which McCormack replied vitamin C and multivitamins.
"They thought I was just a naive Australian," he said.
"They couldn't believe it. He said, 'Come on, we are all big boys here'. I was very offended. It was the first time I thought maybe there are drugs in my sport.
"It never entered my head. If I got sick I went to the medical centre."
McCormack said he believed triathlons were "very clean" from performance-enhancing drug use.
"There are some bad apples, but they seem to get caught."
The sport had very "stringent" drug-testing policies. Athletes were tested by the organisers of each race and the sport was linked to the World Anti-Doping Agency, which could test athletes at any time.
McCormack, who has family ties with New Zealand through his late mother's iwi, Ngati Tuwharetoa, said, for him, preparing for an event and improving his performance was much more enjoyable than the outcome of the actual race.
"I have had many disappointments. But never did I think winning was more important than the journey."
- © Fairfax NZ News