Cycling's whistleblower: Sports may never be fully clean
One of the most high-profile whistleblowers on the international anti-doping front believes cycling's problems could linger for another decade or more and isn't sure sports will ever reach a point where clean competition is guaranteed.
Frankie Andreu, who blew the whistle on teammate Lance Armstrong years before Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles, said cheating goes on in every corner of society and that sports should hope for continued strengthening of anti-doping programs to keep cheating at a minimum.
In an interview with the World Anti-Doping Agency, Andreu lauded both WADA and the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for trying to provide safe haven for whistleblowers to speak out when they see cheating.
''If they're going to point something out, they don't want to feel like they're out there by themselves and they're thrown to the wolves and they're going to start getting attacked every individual way,'' Andreu said.
Andreu's interview was released Thursday, the same day that Sebastian Coe, president of track's world governing body, the IAAF, called now a ''golden opportunity'' for whistleblowers to step up.
Yulia Stepanova, the Russian middle-distance runner who exposed secrets about the deep-rooted culture of doping in her home country, received assistance from anti-doping agencies in moving to an undisclosed home in the United States for her protection. The IAAF allowed her to race in Europe this week as a neutral competitor and the International Olympic Committee is looking at clearing the way for her to do the same at the Rio Games.
Stepanova and her husband, Vitaly, gave information that led to the IAAF's ban of the Russian track team from the Rio Olympics. They are portrayed as courageous heroes, and also examples of the impact whistleblowers can have on international sports.
Andreu and his wife, Betsy, received much different treatment when they started speaking out against Armstrong in 2005, in part because of the cyclist's worldwide popularity and the sway he held over his sport. They were ostracized by Armstrong, his team and others. It took years for USADA to get other cyclists to corroborate their stories.
Andreu, who said making the Olympics was one of his greatest accomplishments, believes cycling has made positive changes, but has far to go before it can be considered a truly clean sport.
''It's just a shame that everything that went on in the 1990s is going to cast its spell for another 10 or 15 years,'' he said.