New Zealand cyclist right to walk away from Armstrong

Kiwi Stephen Swart quit professional cycling rather than get caught up in the sport’s doping culture at the tender age of 30.


Lance Armstrong

KIWI Stephen Swart quit professional cycling rather than get caught up in the sport’s doping culture at the tender age of 30.

Now he feels vindicated, after being attacked by those who denied wrongdoing.

Mr Swart, who lives in Hamilton, was one of 11 former team mates of Lance Armstrong who gave information to the United States Anti-Doping Agency, who last week released a damning report that showed Armstrong and his pro teams were at the heart of a major doping conspiracy.

Armstrong won the Tour de France seven years in a row, although those titles are set to be stripped.

Mr Swart said he spoke out in the first instance to expose the drug-taking culture of the sport, rather than single out Armstrong.

“It was something weighing on me for a while,” Mr Swart told Fairfax NZ.

The report was a long time coming, but the evidence was so damning it could not be argued against.

“Maybe the truth is finally appearing, even though there’s one individual there who is willing to deny everything and will go to any length to keep that quiet – and has done in the past.

“There is enough information there for everyone to make their own decision. People have been sentenced for murder on less evidence.”

Swart rode with Armstrong for the Motorola team in the mid-90s, before walking away.

He wasn’t necessarily out for vindication.

“I guess I believe that if you tell the truth and stay strong with it they can’t argue with it.

“The defence will always try and attack your credibility but I’ve never changed my story. I’ve never pointed the finger at anyone, I’ve just told them of my experience.

“I feel sorry for [Armstrong] in a lot of ways that he’s made this mess for himself. He could have done it differently and all this would never have happened.

“Unfortunately you make your bed and you’ve got to lie in it.”

He walked away from the sport in the 1990s, which at the time was centred on the use of the blood-booster EPO.

“I got to the point where it was like ‘I just don’t want to do this’,” Mr Swart said.

“I knew what I would have had to do to get to the next level and that was being 110 per cent engaged in it, fulltime.

“I just didn’t feel comfortable with that. I regret I was put in that position and feel cheated in some ways, knowing that I had the ability to give more at a natural level but obviously that was subdued by what was going on.

“Maybe things can change and make it better for the generations in the future,” Mr Swart said.