(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) Cycling has recovered and moved on after the lengthy and unpleasant Lance Armstrong episode and competitions like the ongoing Tour of Oman have participants who all race clean and don't indulge in drug use, according to Eddy Merckx, legendary rider and tournament organiser. Speaking to Muscat Daily on the aftermath of the Armstrong issue, Merckx said, ''It's an old thing now, it's a thing of the past. It's history.
The sport has moved on.'' Merckx believes that the sport has survived the whirlwind phase when Armstrong publicly admitted to taking performance- enhancing drugs at all seven of his celebrated Tour de France wins. Merckx, himself a five-time Tour de France champion and International Cycling Union (UCI) Cyclist of the Century, praised the world governing body's move in 2008 to establish 'biological passports' for international riders in a bid to cut down on doping cheats. ''I think the sport is very clean now. The biological passport system is a really good way to keep it clean and it has worked,'' said the 67 year old Merckx. The legendary French cyclist won the Tour de France four times in a row from 1969-1972 and again in 1974.
Armstrong, who was stripped of all his Tour de France titles last year, had won them from 1999-2005. In a high-profile televised interview to popular talk show host Oprah Winfrey last month, the American cyclist admitted to using banned substances during his career. The revelation came only months after a much anticipated US Anti- Doping Agency probe report exposed Armstrong as a hardened drug-use offender. At the ongoing Tour Of Oman, which is being run by the Amaury Sport Organisation as part of the UCI's Asia Tour, riders from the 18 teams will be subjected to random dope tests.
Giving the Tour of Oman's clean record the thumbs-up, Merckx said, ''I am confident that this tournament will be a clean event, just like the last three editions. Nowadays, riders know very well that organisers are very strict when it comes to doping.'' Looking back at the growing significance of the Tour of Oman, he said, ''It has been a good four years for the Tour of Oman. The demand from teams to participate here keeps going up. Oman actually provides some really good stages for cycling with nice roads and good climbs