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World champion Bettini speaks out

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World champion Bettini speaks out

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Monaco. Home to the rich, famous, tax exiles…and world champion cyclist Paulo Bettini, who successfully defended his road title in September in Stuttgart despite the fact the race organisers initially told him he was not welcome. This was because Bettini refused, and refuses, to sign an anti-doping agreement.

A month later he has agreed to talk to Euronews, about drug abuse, the biological passport plan to stop it, the death of Marco Pantani, and much more…

Question:
“You’ve said you’ll retire at the end of next season. Your world title, and the manner in which you won it may persude you to reconsider?”

Bettini:
“With this success I’d like to continue, certainly. The Olympics are next year, and I never thought I’d be going there a double world champion. In any case, right now I see 2008 as the end of my career, and my contract ends as well, when I will have a very important decision to make”.

Q:
“Won’t the rage you felt at Stuttgart make you change your mind?”

B:
“The anger in Stuttgart, the anger I felt on the eve of the world championships doubtless helped me to be a lot more determined , it was a good experience, in fact.
I understood that you only need something very small to shatter a career. Luckily I had support from good people who gave me wise counsel and allowed me to demonstrate, in a very short space of time, that everything people wanted to paint me as was unfounded”.

Q:
“The World Anti-doping agency and the International Cycling Union have agreed on a new individual biological passport for competitors. Is this the answer to stop the drugs cheats?”

B:
“I have a lot of doubts. The sport’s governing bodies have had biological passports for years. Since 1997 cyclists have had urine and blood samples cross-checked, and the amount of data on each rider held by the authorities is infinite. Next year they’ll probably decide on certain parametres to establish a common policy.”

Q:
“I get the feeling you are sceptical…”

B:
“I repeat. For the last 10 years they’ve had masses of data. I’ve been professional for the same period of upgraded tests and controls, and you can’t get more biological than that”.

Q:
“A French journalist has just claimed in a book that Pantani was killed. What do you feel about this?”

B:
“I knew Marco as a cyclist, and not as a person really. I believe that this whole story , everything that happened to him, has nothing to do with cycling. We’ve heard thousands of things about him, but everyone forgets he never failed a drugs test. 1000 samples during his career, and never a problem.

He had other problems later that forced him out of cycling, and he escaped into a world in which at first he felt better, but which later led him to destruction”.

Q:
“Imagine that to save cycling, to clean up the sport, that it was shut down for five or six years and then started again from scratch. Could that be the way forward?”

B:
“Instead of a few years I think a few months would be enough, but it would need a lot of work. In the last few years everyone’s come up with a new rule or two, but no-one has ever proposed a whole new set of rules. This could be drawn up in the winter when there’s no racing, two or three months would be long enough to establish fair new rules.
There will always be cheats, that’s life. It’s part of human nature; some don’t succumb, others do, and in any case drugs will always be a problem”.

Q:
“From one victory to another, pedalling away in the middle of the pack, have you spotted the new Bettini?”

B:
“Yes, I’ve even chosen him as my partner in the team. I think I’m seeing the young Bettini, the cyclist I was at the start of my career, but with a difference. He has already started to win, and has already shown he’s a good cyclist. He’s the Italian champion, Giovanni Visconti”.

Q:
“At his age, were you stronger or not?”

B:
“He’s 24 and already national champion. I had to wait until 26 for my first significant win”.