In praise of women in cycling


Drug cheat Lance Armstrong was keen to show his softer side in a confessional interview with Oprah Winfrey this week. But for years he had shown no mercy to two key whistleblowerswhose reputations and livelihoods were attacked.

Dubliner Emma O’Reilly, who was a massage therapist to the American and previously for the Irish national cycling team, bravely went public in 2000 about the open secret that was Armstrong’s doping in the male-dominated sport. She was joined by Betsy Andreu, wife of pro-cyclist Frankie Andreu, who spoke about Armstrong’s doping with EPO.

Both were met with law suits and character assassination.

As Armstrong agonised on Oprah, it was left to Nicole Cook (pictured), twice winner of the women’s Tour de France and Olympic champion, to put things into perspective. Unlike Armstrong, who is worth about €75 million, Cook made next to nothing from a 10-year pro career. At a function to mark her retirement this week, the Brit silenced the press by launching a forensic attack on corruption and inequality in professional cycling. “The UCI [cycling’s governing body] has spent more time setting up the libel suits against Paul Kimmage and Floyd Landis . . . than developing women’s cycling,” she said.The women’s Tour de France was scrapped three years ago. There are no plans to reinstate it.