Having lied about his doping past throughout an accolade-filled career, Stuart O’Grady should front – and tell all – once cycling’s world governing body establishes an independent commission designed to draw a line over the drug-infested era.
This is the view of Australian anti-doping expert Nicki Vance, who conducted a formal review of the last professional team O’Grady rode for, Australian outfit Orica-GreenEDGE, but did not unearth his long-kept secret in her one-on-one questioning in 2012-13.
Now in the midst of a publicity campaign for the launch of his book – which had to be amended once O’Grady came clean last July about his use of blood booster EPO in 1998 – O’Grady has been adamant that he experimented with the banned drug once: before the 1998 Tour de France. Senior Australian cycling figures including one of O’Grady’s earliest mentors, coach Dave Sanders, have said they have taken some comfort from believing it was a one-off.
Detailing the episode in his book, O’Grady describes how he injected EPO five or six times: ”I didn’t just do it once; I did it over a 10-12-day period leading into the start of the Tour de France,” he writes. ”I used it every second day because I was too afraid to do it every day.”
While Vance said debating whether this constituted multiple doping, rather than a one-off, was essentially a question of semantics, her personal conclusion is that it is a case of multiple doping, albeit before one event.
”It is him using semantics as well,” Vance told Fairfax Media on Wednesday night. ”To me that is doping more than once, but I can also understand where he is coming from in terms of in his mind he [believes] he was doping on the one occasion.
”I’m not trying to apologise for him … but if we acknowledge that it was on this one event, then I don’t think what he has said is necessarily incorrect.”
Vance said the most constructive thing O’Grady could do for cycling now was share everything he knows about doping in a forum the Union Cycliste Internationale’s new boss, Brian Cookson, is spending $3.7 million to set up.
O’Grady has not indicated publicly whether he intends to participate.
”I believe that Stuart and others will come forward [to the UCI’s independent reform commission],” Vance said. ”I think that if he wants to continue to contribute to a doping-free cycling … that he would do the sport a justice by actually taking that next step and participating in that process.”
In an interview with Fairfax Media during the Tour Down Under last month, Cookson encouraged O’Grady to ”tell everything that he knows about everything”.