Lance Armstrong
Lance Armstrong

We can't stop drug use by cyclists: Tour Down Under boss

TOUR Down Under director Mike Turtur can guarantee next year's race will go ahead but cannot guarantee it will be drug free.

Turtur was a shattered man at a press conference yesterday when questioned on his role in encouraging drug cheat Lance Armstrong to appear at South Australia's 2009 event.

Armstrong became arguably the most disgraced athlete of all time of Monday night after he was officially stripped by the UCI of his seven Tour de France titles, and banned for life, for doping.

When asked to guarantee whether next January's Tour, which will make its UCI WorldTour season debut, will be clean, Turtur said: "No. I can't see how in any activity how you can professional or whatever …can you guarantee that the organisation you work for has no people using substances that are illegal?

"I mean the problem here is we're dealing with human beings."

Turtur believes cycling in Australia still has a bright future, despite the fact former key CA officials Matt White and Stephen Hodge no longer have jobs with the organisation.

They admitted to doping during their careers as part of the negative flow-on effects from the Armstrong bombshell.
Turtur considered walking away himself, but outlined the reasons why he will not.

"There's too many good people to walk away from. There's too many good people that need support," he said.

"It's not worth throwing it all away because of the actions of a group of people."

Meanwhile, reports have surfaced the South Australian State Government paid Armstrong an undisclosed fee to ride in the 2009 Tour.

And the big question on Turtur's role in getting Armstrong to Australia, after the UCI's six-month return from general retirement rule was bent by two weeks to allow him to participate, remains a mystery.

Turtur strongly denied his involvement in bending the rules to get Armstrong to race at his event at yesterday's press conference at the SA Tourism Commission office.

"I wasn't part of the issue back then," he said.

"The decision to allow him to participate in 2009 was a decision made by the UCI, so I didn't have any involvement in that process."

Turtur also denied reports he offered support to Armstrong since the 2009 event, which was the most successful of its kind at the time since it first ran in 1999.

"I haven't spoken to him for, when was the last time he was here?" he said.

"Of course, given the information of today, then it would be different (allowing him to compete in 2009).

"He was great for the event and I think people see it for what it was.

"It was us doing our job to really make this event bigger and better and more popular, and it certainly did that."

Turtur, arguably the most powerful man in Australian cycling, was reduced to a visible mess when asked about the feelings he now holds towards Armstrong.

"It's emotionally maybe too early for me to make a firm statement on that because it cuts pretty deep," he said.

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