By Claire Bloomfield
MONACO (Reuters) – Doping concerns have “challenged”, if not “tarnished”, cycling, British great Chris Hoy said on Tuesday, but he is confident a new generation, possibly including his own son, will not be discouraged from taking to the saddle.
“You just have to look at the number of people out there on there on bikes who have an interest in cycling,” the 40-year old told Reuters on Tuesday, saying it was time for cycling to undergo a “shake-up”.
“I think it is important that everything, no matter what it is, is brought out in the open and is addressed openly so there is complete transparency and people can see the facts.
“It is frustrating and it’s tough when you see the thing that you love, I wouldn’t say tarnished, but certainly having its reputation challenged. I am sure in the long run cycling will continue to grow and flourish – not just in the UK but all around the world.”
After London 2012, having become the first British Olympian to win six gold medals, track cyclist Hoy retired from the sport after 13 years at the top.
The sport has since been plagued by doping suspicions, with the likes of British Olympic and Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins at the center of allegations of wrongdoing in cycling over the last year concerning Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs).
Wiggins, who retired at the end of 2016, has always said he was not looking for unfair advantage but merely trying to mitigate the impact of asthma and allergies when using banned substances under medical exemption rules.
The troubles surrounding British Cycling, which has also suffered a 4.3 million-pound ($5.4 million) funding cut ahead of the 2020 Games in Tokyo, took another twist last week as chairman Bob Howden announced he was stepping down.
As cycling braces itself for the release of a potentially damning report commissioned by UK Sport and British Cycling into the World Class Performance Programme, Hoy says he welcomes a new era for the sport.
“There’s no reason not to think that the future of British cycling is bright,” he said ahead of the Laureus World Sport Awards in Monaco.
“We’ve got the talent coming through. Regardless of the situations that have been arising in the last year, I think it’s the right time for British cycling to have a shake-up anyway.”
Hoy said of his two-year-old son who has just got his first bike: “I would have no qualms at all about encouraging my son to take up cycling competitively if he wanted to.
“I still think it is a wonderful sport. There is so much good that it can do. I have had an amazing life traveling the world and competing, doing what I love.”
(Editing by Robin Pomeroy)