World champion rider Greg LeMond has predicted the end of cycling as an Olympic sport because of the on-going row over doping.
LeMond, 47, told a sports conference in Coventry that cycling is on a “slow death march” and that widespread doping might damage the sport’s reputation permanently.
“In 20 years,” he said, “drugs will have damaged cycling so much that it mightn’t be at the Olympics.”
LeMond’s comments come as the International Cycling Union (UCI) announced that next week it will name and shame riders who may have fallen foul of its stringent ‘biological passport’ testing.
UCI president Pat McQuaid said: “Following a meeting of experts in Geneva last week, the UCI has decided to start disciplinary actions against a certain number of riders on the basis of evidence taken from their biological passports.
"They will be informed early next week, we will inform their teams and national federations and then we will make a public statement, naming the riders. The process has already started."
Earlier this week, Spain's Antonio Colom received a provisional suspension for testing positive for the banned blood booster EPO (erythropoietin). The UCI said that Colom had been tested due to information gleaned from his biological passport.
LeMond was the first American to win the tour, back in 1986, and in all took the title three times. At the Play The Game conference at Coventry University, he said that Tour riders were "lab rats" for doping doctors, and claimed that deaths and suicides in the sport "are on the rise" as a result of doping.
LeMond said he was lucky that his genes alone helped him reach three Tour titles, but added: "Had I got into the sport a little later, say 1993, 1994, I don’t know what I would have done. Drugs in cycling corrupts even the good people . . . doctors, managers and officials are the one corrupting riders. The only ones paying the price are the athletes."