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The Eh Game

Fallout from Lance Armstrong drug scandal could have collateral damage on Canadian cycling

Jim Morris
Eh Game

The stench from the Lance Armstrong scandal has drifted over Canadian cycling with the admission by Toronto's Michael Barry he used ban substances in the summer of 2006 while riding with Armstrong on the U.S. Postal Service Team.

Barry is one of 11 former teammates who testified against Armstrong during a U.S. Anti-Doping Agency investigation. The agency's release of over 1,000 pages of evidence against Armstrong confirms what many people already believed about one of the biggest names in road cycling but also shattered the last hopes of some who hung on to the belief the American cancer survivor was clean when won seven Tour de France titles.

Many of Armstrong's fans continue to support him and his lawyer has denied the allegations. For his part, Barry made a mea culpa his website.

"I apologize to those I deceived,'' he wrote. "I will accept my suspension and any other consequences. I will work hard to regain people's trust.''

There will continue to be fallout from the Armstrong allegations but will cycling in Canada suffer collateral damage?

Former Olympian Bruce Kidd worries that government bodies who invest in sport may hesitate before spending money on cycling because of the perception it's dirty.

For any athlete to succeed there needs to be coaching, training and the proper facilities. That all costs money. That money mostly comes from federal, provincial or civic governments.

"Will this (scandal) discourage public authorities, community-minded people, to create the conditions for Canadians to excel in road cycling?'' Kidd, a professor at the faculty of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Toronto, said in an interview.

"Or will they say "Jesus, why should we spend our time and energy and encourage our kids to take up a sport that's corrupt and drug-ridden at every level.''

When governments spend money on sport programs they trumpet ideals like sportsmanship, values, fair play and national pride. Those laudable objectives  pale when associated with a sport that appears to have an entrenched drug culture.

"The politicians . . . they want to create opportunities for kids for a lot of reasons but they want those opportunities to be consistent with the values of this country,'' said Kidd. "They want this consistent with the idea that sport is part of  citizenship building, community building, national building.''

This all comes at a time when Canadian interest in road cycling has grown following Ryder Hesjedal's victory in the Giro d'Italia.

Cycling Canada was quick to defend the sport. It says strides have been taken in the last seven years to clean up cycling. The association also called on the International Cycling Union, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sports and the World Anti-doping Agency to continue the battle against doping.

"We will continue to enhance our efforts to educate around doping in our sport so that all athletes compete on a fair and equal basis,'' John Tolkamp, Cycling Canada's president, said in a release.

"Besides educating our athletes we will continue to work with the UCI, CCES and other partners to improve processes and programs to ensure fair sport in Canada."

Cycling isn't the only sport that faces drug problems. Hopefully it doesn't become the whipping boy for politicians looking to polish their image.

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