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Pound: Doping threatening future of cycling

LONDON -- Cycling must take action over
doping in the sport or risk losing future competitors, the head
of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) said on Sunday.

"The image of your sport and right now your flagship event
[the Tour de France] is in the toilet and you've got to do
something about it or the risk is that your sport will be
ignored by everybody, marginalized by others and it won't be
sport any more," WADA chairman Dick Pound said on BBC Radio.

"Under these circumstances, if I had a child who showed
some potential in this I'd say 'it appears that if you want to
get to the top of this sport you've got to use all these drugs
and why don't we find some other sport for you'," he added.

The Tour de France was stripped of three of its main
contenders on the eve of the race on Friday when 1997 winner
Jan Ullrich, Giro d'Italia champion Ivan Basso and Francisco
Mancebo were implicated in a doping investigation in Spain.

Ullrich's teammate Oscar Sevilla was also withdrawn and
the Astana-Wuerth team, formerly known as Liberty Seguras,
pulled out because five of their riders were on a list of Tour
competitors provided by Spanish police.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) said it could not be
assumed all nine Tour riders were guilty of doping offenses,
while Italy's Basso and German Ullrich have stated they are the
victims in the investigation and expect to be cleared.

The doping scandal erupted last month after the Spanish
Civil Guard raided a number of addresses and found large
quantities of anabolic steroids, laboratory equipment used for
blood transfusions and more than 100 packs of frozen blood.

"I think cycling generally has been pretty close to
clinical denial about the extent of the problem in this sport
and now this is open for the entire world to see," Pound said.

"I think if they resolve to actually do something about it
they have a chance to take some steps that they haven't been
able to in the past."

The latest affair is reminiscent of the Festina case in
1998, which brought to light the use of the blood-boosting drug
erythropoietin (EPO) among riders.

Seven-time King of the Mountains winner Richard Virenque
of France was handed a nine-month ban after admitting to doping
offenses.

Last year's Tour of Spain winner Roberto Heras was banned
for two years in November after testing positive for EPO during
that stage race.