Cycling: A former team-mate of Lance Armstrong came out in support of the disgraced cyclist today, claiming that the US rider should not be the sole focus of criticism.
The United States Anti-Doping Agency (Usada) has had Armstrong stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles and claim that he orchestrated “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen.”
But Australian Patrick Jonker, who rode for Armstrong’s US Postal team in 2000, believes such was the problem with drugs in cycling at the time to focus solely on one rider is not right.
He said: “Reading the (Usada) report, I don’t think Lance could have acted as the sole power behind this.
“I believe you must have had the knowledge of a doctor to enforce this.
“To crucify Lance and only Lance would be unfair, they need to crucify the sport during that era.”
The Usada report has prompted mixed emotions as Armstrong had been a hero to millions for both his cycling achievements and his cancer charity work after beating the disease.
Formula One driver Mark Webber said: “It’s good that they’re trying to clean the sport up, even retrospectively, it sends a message to a lot of different sports that no matter what you have achieved and how you have done it at the time — the karma will come and get you.”
But rival Fernando Alonso said: “I love cycling, I love bicycles and for sure Lance was more than another rider, he was some kind of idol for many people and an inspiration for many of us in the world.
“It’s not easy and I think he will remain an inspiration for many people, whatever happened, whatever the result.”
Armstrong’s lawyers have condemned Usada’s report as a witch-hunt “based largely on axe-grinders, serial perjurers, coerced testimony, sweetheart deals and threat-induced stories.”
But Usada have released 1,000 pages of evidence against Armstrong, including testimony from 11 cyclists, nine of which are former US Postal team-mates of his.
One of those former team-mates, Levi Leipheimer, was yesterday placed on “non-active status” by his current team Omega Pharma — Quick-Step.
The 38-year-old, one among four of the 11 to testify who are still competing, confessed to doping but claimed to have been clean for more than five years.
He said: “Doping wasn’t the exception, it was the norm.”