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'Grey area' medications are an issue in pro cycling, says Bennett

Joe Robinson
9 Nov 2018

LottoNL-Jumbo's George Bennett believes that abuse of thyroid medication isn't being talked about

LottoNL-Jumbo's George Bennett has voiced concerns around the 'grey area' of potentially performance-enhancing medication in pro cycling, highlighting levothyroxine abuse as a topic that has not been properly discussed in the sport. 

In a recent interview with Cyclist at the Rouleur Classic show, Bennett said he believes the sport is currently well-regulated in terms of banned substances but alluded to the 'grey area' of legal substances that can have a tangible performance-enhancing effect.

'The good riders, the best riders aren't doping right now,' said Bennett, adding, 'but obviously there is still the "grey area" issue, which annoys me because that is a problem.

'For example, thyroid medication is not really being talked about in cycling the way it is in other sports. It can help you lose weight without losing power, but it can leave you in a bad way afterwards.' 

Thyroid medications such as levothyroxine are not on the WADA prohibited list but have been much debated across sport. The most recent example is the Royal Dutch Skating Association, which recently raised concerns regarding the use of the substance by its top athletes for performance-enhancing benefits.

The UK, Dutch and US Anti-Doping Agencies have all lobbied the World Anti-Doping Agency for the inclusion of thyroid medication on the list of prohibited substances, citing its ability to increase metabolism and aid weight loss.

While Bennett has voiced concerns around the 'grey area', he also feels frustrated by the attitudes of some sportsmen, who he thinks unfairly criticise the anti-doping efforts of WADA.

'[Tennis player] Novak Djokovic has come out and complained about the number of tests he takes. It pisses me off because it's part of the job. I got tested four times at the Giro d'Italia and that's a good thing,' Bennett told Cyclist.

'I then go back home to New Zealand and go to the pub and I tell people I'm a cyclist and after first telling me to get off the road they ask me how many drugs I take.

'I've accepted that's going to be the case in my career but for the young guys coming through they don't need it. I want the sports to move on and I think we can because we are actually operating in a pretty clean sport full of hypochondriacs regarding drugs, which is a good thing.'

The 28-year-old also considers that it is time to reconsider how the sport treats those whose reputations are still tarnished from decades previous.

Bennett does not hesitate in telling Cyclist that it was watching Lance Armstrong race that turned his attention away from the New Zealand rugby team and onto two wheels, and that he still cherishes the 'certain feelings' he felt watching Armstrong during the Tour de France. 

He is also critical of the blame Armstrong and US Postal team manager Johan Bruyneel have shouldered for cycling's chequered past and the fact that they have been made outcasts by those still working in the sport.

He points out the irony of former Tour winner Bjarne Riis (who is standing only metres away during our interview) having admitted to doping throughout his career, but who has been allowed back into the sport as a team manager.

'I definitely think that the sport created a few scapegoats for something that clearly ran pretty deep and I don't think that it is the best way to deal with the problem,' said Bennett.

'It's almost as if a some point we need an amnesty with our past and to start again.'

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