Retiring Nicole Cooke takes aim at drug cheats
FORMER Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke has retired from professional cycling and delivered a withering parting shot at the sport's drug cheats.
Cooke, who was born in Swansea, was crowned Olympic road race champion at the 2008 Games in Beijing and also won gold medals at the 2002 Commonwealth Games and 2008 World Championships. She reflected happily on her own drug-free career but denounced cyclists such as Lance Armstrong who have been exposed for doping.
"I am very happy with my career. I have many, many happy memories over what has been my life's work since I was 12," said Cooke.
"I have won every race and more that I dreamed I could win.
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"I am so very fortunate to have been able to have won clean.
"I have been robbed by drug cheats, but I am fortunate. I am here before you with more in my basket than the 12-year-old (me) dreamed of.
"But for many genuine people out there who do ride clean, people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work."
Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles following last year's revelations that his dominance of the sport was fuelled by drug use.
The American, who has long denied doping, has recorded an eagerly anticipated interview with Oprah Winfrey, but Cooke will not be swayed by what many are expecting to be a contrived show of emotion from Armstrong.
"When Lance cries on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward," she added.
"Tyler Hamilton (another cyclist banned for doping) will make more money from a book describing how he cheated than I will make in all my years of honest labour."
Cooke was also critical of the Union Cysliste Internationale (UCI), claiming they had not supported women's racing adequately and were "wasting time" on the Armstrong controversy.