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Sole female participant in Tour de France charity ride pulls out due to late addition of Lance Armstrong

Nicki Aitken plans on undertaking alternative challenges instead

Nicki Aitken has pulled out of the charity ride in which she was aiming to ride the entire course of the Tour de France one day before the professionals due to the participation of Lance Armstrong. Aitken, who would have been the sole female participant, said she did not wish to be associated with ‘the most tainted man in sport’.

Aitken had signed up to be one of 20 cyclists accompanying former England footballer Geoff Thomas on his Tour de France Ten Years On ride, which will celebrate his going into remission from leukaemia a decade ago. The plan is to ride all 21 stages the day before the pros do so and raise £1 million for the Cure Leukaemia charity of which Thomas is patron.

However, Aitken told BT Sport that the late addition of Armstrong had dissuaded her from taking part. “I was getting texts from friends when it was announced that Lance Armstrong would be taking part and I thought: ‘You know what, I haven’t seen one positive thing about this.’”

She said that it was when the news broke that Nike would be sponsoring Justin Gatlin [who has returned to sprinting after bans for positive drug tests] that she realised she didn’t want to be involved.

“I enjoy sport. I just don’t understand the win at all costs mentality at all. Obviously some drug cheats apologise and come back, but there’s always that element with me: ‘Why did you do it in the first place'.

"It’s not only the taking drugs and cheating, it’s also that you’ve denied clean athletes winnings things in that time period and you can never give that opportunity back.’ It just doesn’t sit right. It takes away the point of sport. It just becomes drug companies competing against drug companies.”

Aitken’s father and grandmother both died from blood cancer and while she had wanted to raise money for research into the disease, Armstrong’s involvement didn’t sit well.

“Dad loved sport. He always used to come and support me and my two elder brothers. Even on cold days, in the middle of a muddy field, he’d be there. He was so encouraging. I know he would be proud of everything I’ve achieved in sport. But he also brought us up to fight for what we believe in."

Betsy Andreu and Sir Dave Brailsford are among those who have been critical of Armstrong’s involvement, but Geoff Thomas believes that the disgraced cyclist will help him raise more money and more awareness and says he has ‘no regrets’ about inviting him.

While Armstrong is only planning on riding two stages, Aitken is scornful of suggestions she could have missed those days and ridden the rest. “What’s the point of that? Then I wouldn’t have ridden the whole Tour de France. It defeats the object.”

Fortunately, Aitken’s charity efforts are not lost. She instead plans on undertaking alternative challenges.

“My sponsors all said we’ll still give you the money if you do something else so this year I’m going to take on other challenges instead, like cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats, the Jurassic Coast Challenge (three marathons in three days) and riding the Nove Colli, one of Italy’s most famous mass participation cycling events.”

Alex has written for more cricket publications than the rest of the team combined. Despite the apparent evidence of this picture, he doesn't especially like cake.

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