Obree speaks up
Former cyclist says he withdrew because drugs infest sport
Posted: Wednesday July 29, 1998 11:20 AM
LONDON (CNN/SI) -- In yet another revelation surrounding the Tour de France and the world of drugs the former one-hour world record-holder Graeme Obree of Scotland, says the sport is infested by a "culture of the needle."
In an interview with the Daily Express on Wednesday, Obree said he withdrew from the 1995 Tour de France after another rider tried to persuade him to use performance enhancing drugs.
Obree's said a rider "came up to me to explain the facts of life on the professional tour" while he was in France.
He said the cyclist, who spoke good English, confirmed all the rumors he had heard.
"I was to donate 2,000 pounds (US$3,288) into a fund for medical back-up as it was called," Obree said in the article.
"That, I was told, was a bargain as the system was to have the team pay another 6,000 pounds (US$9,864) for each of the 17 riders on the payroll who chose to take up the scheme.
"There was no question at all of what medical back-up was for. We were soon discussing the drugs required and the main one was EPO, Erythropoietin - a type of growth hormone which stimulates the production of red blood cells."
"The rider explained it was no big deal. It was the professional way and when I explained I was worried about deaths because of the way EPO thickens the blood, he said there were no problems" he added.
Obree said the cyclist explained that the doctors "looked after everything."
"[The doctors] supervised the whole process and that was why the team owner needed to be paying for medical back-up, a real euphemism," he said.
"A drug that was undetectable, used extensively by some of professionals and administered by proper doctors. If you didn't have it, you would be going backwards."
He admitted the offer was tempting for a new professional but he "stuck to my guns" and later withdrew because he didn't have a chance against those cyclists using drugs.
Obree said that the use of performance enhancing drugs in cycling was rife.
Obree, who estimates his decision not to ride the Tour de France cost him about 90,000 pounds (US$147,960) a year, said the sport must be cleaned up.
"I would have loved to have ridden in the tour but I have no regrets. I am sad for the riders, they are victims of their psychological dependence on drugs."
Obree set the one-hour record in 1993 with a distance of 51.596 kilometers, and again in 1994 with 52.713 kilometers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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