Bettini calls for clean-up before Beijing | other | Hindustan Times
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Bettini calls for clean-up before Beijing

"Everybody's eyes will be on the Olympics, so yes, it is a great, perfect opportunity for us to show the world we are back and we have recovered," Bettini said.

other Updated: Jan 24, 2008 18:59 IST
Darren Ennis

Olympic road race champion Paulo Bettini has called on cycling authorities to ensure the sport is "squeaky clean" before the Beijing Olympics.

In an interview, the 33-year-old Italian said the Games would be the perfect setting to show cycling had recovered after last year's succession of doping scandals.

"Everybody's eyes will be on the Olympics, so yes, it is a great, perfect opportunity for us to show the world we are back and we have recovered," Bettini said.

"But I don't think we need to wait for the Olympic Games. Cycling needs to show immediately that the systems have changed for good.

"Of course, without doubt a lot of hard work needs to be done to make sure cycling is squeaky clean. Everyone has to work hard to fight any scandal especially at the Olympics, because it is the biggest sporting event in the world."

Last season the sport plummetted in popularity after a litany of doping cases which culminated in Tour de France leader Michael Rasmussen being withdrawn from the race four days after it was revealed he had missed out-of-competition drugs tests.

The doping scandals, combined with a stream of spats between the sport's ruling body, race organisers, teams and riders, led to the withdrawal of a number of sponsors and the cessation of many lucrative television and media contracts.

COURT CASE

Bettini refused to sign the International Cycling Union's (UCI) anti-doping pledge prior to his world title win in Stuttgart last September, prompting local organisers to take legal action in a bid to prevent him taking part.

The Quick Step rider claimed a clause in agreement requiring any rider receiving a standard two-year ban to pay a year's salary was unfair. But he won the court case and went on to retain his rainbow jersey.

Bettini, who intends to retire at the end of the year, said he wants to become the first rider to win a hat-trick of world titles in succession and retain his gold medal in China before bowing out.

"I will go to Beijing to get another gold medal. That is one of two objectives for me," Bettini said.

"Then we have the world championships in Italy where I want to defend my title. It won't be easy, but I must try to get the victory. It will be so special for me to do this in my own country."