Giro does little to help drugs perception
For all the recent protestations cycling is moving on from its drug-ridden past, the public remains unconvinced and two positive tests during this month's Giro d'Italia will have done little to convince otherwise.
A day after the International Cycling Union (UCI) published the summary report of its stakeholder consultation called "A bright future for cycling", former Giro champion Danilo Di Luca was facing the possibility of a life ban for a second doping offence.
The UCI announced on Friday the 37-year-old Italian, who returned from a doping ban in 2010, had failed a test for EPO. He can request an analysis of the B sample.
Last week, Frenchman Sylvain Georges pulled out of the Giro before stage 11 when he tested positive for the stimulant Heptaminol.
Only 21 percent of 5,638 general public respondents to the UCI's stakeholder consultation believed cycling would be clean in the next five years, although 60 percent agreed the sport was leading the way in anti-doping practices.
UCI President Pat McQuaid told Reuters in an interview earlier this week, the UCI spent 7.5 million euros ($9.68 million) a year on anti doping but cycling was battling a culture of drug-taking.
"Of all of the presidents in the history of the UCI, I'm probably the first that has ever stated, and I've stated this at congresses on more than one occasion, that there's been a culture of doping in our sport," McQuaid said.
"My aim was to get rid of that culture but you don't change a culture overnight it takes time."
However, McQuaid, who is hoping to win a third term as president, was optimistic change was taking place.
"There's a new generation of riders that have nothing to do with doping and can win races," he added.
"The fact that riders see and acknowledge that riders can win races clean it gives them heart that they don't have to go into doping programmes."
Perhaps in a sign of the change McQuaid is hoping for, there was open criticism of Di Luca's positive test from within the peloton and, of all people, Lance Armstrong who in January admitted doping throughout his career after being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles.
"Knowing I have 0 cred on the doping issue - I still can't help but think, "really Di Luca? Are you that... stupid??," Armstrong tweeted.
German rider Andre Greipel wrote: "Di Luca! Doping in cycling disappeared but not in your cycling world! 0 tolerance for cheaters! Hope you never come back into cycling!"
Cycling's tarnished reputation reached a new low when Armstrong, one the sport's biggest names, was accused of being the ringleader of the "most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping program that sport has ever seen," following an investigation by the United States Anti-Doping organisation (USADA).
The UCI faced accusations, which they denied, of not doing everything in their power to catch the American.
"We need to acknowledge that there's a lot that the UCI needs to do to repair the damage caused to our sport after the Armstrong affair," McQuaid said.
The top recommendation in the consultation summary, which also involved members of the cycling family, was, unsurprisingly, restoring cycling and the UCI's credibility.
But Di Luca's positive showed, for some, old habits die hard.