By Agence France Press
Seven leading Australian track cyclists on Tuesday declared themselves drug-free, saying they were furious at being smeared by association with the sport’s damaging doping scandal.
The seven cyclists, all members of the shadow track sprint team for the Athens Olympics, issued a joint statement denying involvement in drug-taking allegations centering on banned cyclist Mark French.
They are Olympians Shane Kelly and Sean Eadie, Ryan Bayley, Jobie Dajka, Rosealee Hubbard, Anna Meares and her sister Kerrie, who has withdrawn from the Athens team after suffering an injury.
The eighth shadow sprint member, Ben Kersten, was not a signatory because he is not a member of the Australian Institute of Sport. Cycling officials said nothing should be read into the fact that he was not a signatory.
French, 19, was on Monday banned for life from representing Australia at the Olympics after being found guilty of trafficking in performance-enhancing substances. He told investigators that five other cyclists had joined him in injecting drugs at an Australian Institute of Sport center in Adelaide.
His allegation, and Cycling Australia’s refusal to name the five, cast suspicion on all 18 Australian track cyclists bidding for the Olympic team, which has a maximum of 14 members.
The seven athletes took matters into their own hands on Tuesday, asking Cycling Australia chief executive Graham Fredericks to read their statement at a media conference.
“We are committed to competing drug-free and we are extremely disappointed and angry with ill-informed recent comments and innuendo, which have cast a slur on our sport and us as individuals,” the statement said.
They said they had been regularly tested in and out of competition and none had ever tested positive for a banned substance.
Federal Sports Minister Rod Kemp has announced an independent investigation into French’s allegations, to be conducted by former judge Robert Anderson. But it is doubtful it can be completed by the end of next week, when Cycling Australia must submit its final Athens team to the Australian Olympic Committee.