Irish cycling legend Roche wants sports drug cheats to be hit with lifetime ban
Irish cycling legend Stephen Roche supports a life-long ban for those caught doping.
Speaking to the Herald before taking part in this weekend's Leinster Loop, Mr Roche said that a ban on cyclists using performance-enhancing drugs should be "harsher".
Mr Roche (55), who won the Tour de France in 1987, said "enough damage had been done" to cycling and that rule-breakers should be hit with the ban and a financial penalty.
"For me, anybody that has been caught for doping should be banned for life - not just one-, two-, three-, four-, five- or six-year bans," he said.
"There are guys out there trying to take shortcuts who are doping. I feel they are totally disrespectful of anybody else in cycling and I think the persuasion of a two or three-year suspension isn't enough."
"I've been saying it for a long time now - we try and make excuses, like 'The poor guy didn't know' or 'The poor guy was under pressure or bullied'. But I think whatever the reason, the thing is now … they can still come back.
"So let the punishment be harsher - and if you're caught and convicted of doping get a ban and a financial penalty."
The issue of doping in the cycling world came into prominence in the 1990s, when the performance-enhancing drug EPO came on the market.
Most famously, US cyclist Lance Armstrong was stripped of his Tour de France medals after cheating and was banned for life.
This year's Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, became the victim of speculation and innuendo about his impressive performance. Mr Froome (30) strenuously denied any cheating.
Team Sky released data that they insisted clearly showed that their rider was within the normal performance rate of a cyclist.
"I've tried to be as much as a spokesman as I can for clean cycling," Froome said last month while offering to undergo independent drug testing to prove he was a "clean rider".
Mr Roche will be arriving back in Ireland from his home in the South of France to take part in the Leinster Loop this coming Sunday.
The loop is a 20km cycle that encompasses Kildare, Laois and Carlow and is designed for experienced and fit cyclists.
More than 1,550 cyclists took part in the popular charity event last year.