Renowned whistle-blower Betsy Andreu has told the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) that athletics could be facing doping problems on a level worse than cycling faced post the Lance Armstrong era.
Andreu, wife of former United States Postal Service cyclist Frankie, was key to Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and being handed a lifetime ban from competition, with the cyclist eventually admitting to doping in 2013.
Speaking to WADA Talks series, which feature interviews from leading figures from athletes, sport, politics and other partners involved in the clean sport movement, Andreu reflected on the problems facing athletics following allegations of widespread state-supported doping in Russian athletics, revealed in WADA’s Independent Commission’s report last month.
Following the revelations, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Council voted 22-1 to ban Russia.
Andreu believes there are similarities in the challenges facing the IAAF, as there were for the International Cycling Union in tackling doping.
“I think it is going through the same problems, maybe at a level which is even worse than cycling,” she said.
“In the late 90s, I was with another professional cyclist and track and field was on the TV and he made the comment, ‘The average person thinks wow, those guys are really fast’.
“He said ‘the average athlete will think, 'Wow, I wonder what they are on,'.”
The 49-year-old, is the cover feature "champion" of WADA’s latest Play TrueMagazine, also discussed the personal risks associated with whistleblowing on popular and inspirational as Lance Armstrong was.
“He [Lance Armstrong] had money, sponsors, adoring fans, the Cycling Federation on his side, and the media in his back pocket.
“I just had one thing: the truth.”
Her comments come at a time when Yulia Stepanova, a whisteblower in the German television documentary which led to Russia suspension for doping, is set to be sued by some of the runners who she identified as allegedly using banned performance-enhancing drugs.
Andreu praised the work of WADA and the United States Anti-Doping Agency in giving whistleblowers the platform to come forward but claims governing bodies need to restore the public’s confidence that athletes are competing on a level playing field.
She cites the case of the Astana Pro Cycling Team, whose general manger is convicted blood doper Alexander Vinokourov, as having damaged confidence amongst fans of cycling that the sport is changing for the better.
The team were eventually awarded the top-tier WorldTour racing status for the 2015 season, despite the UCI’s initially requesting its withdrawal in February following several positive tests in the team.
Proceedings were dropped entirely by the UCI’s Licence Commission when awarding the team a licence for the 2016 season, with Astana deemed to have shown a willingness to overcome its "'old-style culture with over-influential leaders" while they had corrected failings in their organisational approach.
“[UCI President] Brian Cookson I think is a refreshing change, he is a man of integrity, but more has to be done.
“When we see that Astana has so many positives but retains their licence people lose faith in the process and the governing body, maybe rules have to be amended or bylaws have to be made to prevent this from happening”
“We always have to have the governing body believed to be doing what they are supposed to be doing.”
Andreu also claimed WADA would benefit from establishing a programme for parents to educate and send children a very strong message about clean sport at a young age, while she called upon high profile clean athletes to be more vocal in criticising doping practices and their own governing bodies.
The latest Play True Magazine can be read by clicking here.
December 2015: Conditions for lifting of Russia's ban leave "no room for doubt" says IAAF President Coe
December 2015: Restoring athletics' credibility has to be Coe's priority, warns Michael Johnson
November 2015: Russian whistleblowers face legal action from athletes named in World Anti-Doping Agency Independent Commission report
November 2015: Astana Pro Team among 11 teams to retain WorldTour licences for 2016 season, UCI confirms
November 2015: Astana Pro Team to retain UCI World Tour licence