Cycling
Drug scandal will not damage sport - Jess

By Jamie Arrowsmith Thursday 14 February 2013 Updated: 14/02 17:00

BROMSGROVE’S Olympic cyclist Jess Varnish has dismissed the notion the Lance Armstrong doping scandal has tarnished the overall image of the sport.

When asked whether she herself had experienced any negativity in the wake of the revelations which implied the administration of performance enhancing drugs on a wide scale, Jess said ‘absolutely not’.

Cycling exploded to the forefront of British minds in 2012 making headlines for all the right reasons.

It started with Bradley Wiggins’ triumph in the Tour de France, followed up by an impressive medal tally at London 2012 from British cyclists who bagged eight golds, accounting for more than a quarter of Team GB’s overall tally of 29. A total of 12 out of 65 medals were scooped on the bike in total, with a pair of bronze silvers added to the haul.

However since, details of Armstrong’s doping have emerged which culminated in his admission of drug taking to Oprah Winfrey.

Armstrong was previously stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and hundreds of riders have been implicated in the scandal.

However, Jess told the Standard: “I think its encouraging people understand it is a new era for cycling, its changed a lot really since then.

“I have never experienced any negativity or anything like that ever. I have never encountered anything like that.”

The former South Bromsgrove High School believes the sport has learnt its lessons and said testing was a lot more robust now.

With London 2012 now five months behind us, Jess also thinks the predictable boom in the number of cyclists had been maintained, particularly in Bromsgrove.

“Its improving. My dad goes out every week and he is getting more and more members joining him. Its really encouraging.”

Jess added that she felt more cycle routes and investment in equipment and infrastructure would also go a long way.

“It would really really help if we had a velodrome in the Midlands,” she added.

Jess was speaking to the Standard whilst promoting the Hearts of Minds Challenge which will see her cycle from Malaga to Gibraltar in four days in May.

Money raised will go towards plans to build a dedicated autism school in Manchester which will initially accommodate 25 children under 11-year-old.

Jess said: “We now want to rally as many people as possible to join us on the charity ride, and help us fund a new school that will transform the lives of autistic children.

“Pedalling across Spain might sound like a pleasant ride, but cycling 300 miles in four days is no mean feat. Everyone taking part will definitely be earning their sponsorship.”

Visit www.heartsandmindschallenge.org for information.

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