Stuart O’Grady has told Australian newspaper The Advertiser that he took performance-enhancing drugs before the 1998 Tour de France.

Australian stalwart O’Grady made a sudden retirement announcement on Monday having completed the 100th edition of the Tour, which doubled as his 17th appearance.

Today the French Senate Commission released a report that revealed a list of 1998 Tour riders whose urine samples were retroactively tested for banned substances and returned a positive result for EPO. The 39-year-old O’Grady was listed in the report as producing a suspicious sample.

“Leading into the Tour I made a decision,” O’Grady told The Advertiser of the 1998 race.

“I sourced it (EPO) myself, there was no one else involved, it didn’t involve the team in any way.

“I just had to drive over the border and buy it at any pharmacy.

“The hardest part of all this is I did it for two weeks before the Tour de France.

“I used extremely cautious amounts because I’d heard a lot of horror stories and did the absolute minimum of what I hoped would get me through.

“When the Festina Affair happened, I smashed it, got rid of it and that was the last I ever touched it.

“That’s the hardest thing to swallow out of all this – it was such a long time ago and one very bad judgement is going to taint a lot of things and people will have a lot of questions.”

O’Grady won stage 14 of the Tour that year and became the second ever Australian to wear the maillot jaune. He said he told his parents on Monday.

“I want to paint a picture why I chose this avenue and make people understand how different things were and how isolated I felt,” he said.

“After my first Tour (in 1997) when I was dropped after 5km on a mountain day and you’re questioning what the hell I am doing in this sport you’re not anywhere near competitive at something you’re supposed to be pretty good at.

“It wasn’t systematic doping, I wasn’t trying to deceive people, I was basically trying to survive in what was a very grey area.

“We’re humans who make mistakes. It was a decision I made at the time which I thought would basically get me through the Tour.”

The former Paris-Roubaix champion and George Hincapie are tied on number of Tour de France appearances. O’Grady had previously said he wanted to compete with Orica-GreenEdge up to and including next year’s race to take the appearance record.

Jan Ullrich, Marco Pantani, Mario Cipollini, Laurent Jalabert, Erik Zabel, Bo Hamburger, Manuel Beltran, Andrea Tafi, Marcos Serrano, Jackie Durand, Jens Heppner, Jeroen Blijlevens, Nicola Minali, Fabio Sacchi, Eddy Mazzoleni, Abraham Olano, Laurent Desbiens and Kevin Livingston all returned positive test results from their 1998 Tour samples.

In addition to O’Grady, Bobby Julich, Ermanno Brignoli, Alain Turicchia, Pascal Chanteur, Frédéric Moncassin, Roland Meier, Giuseppe Calcaterra, Stefano Zanini, Stéphane Barthe and Axel Merckx all returned ‘suspicious’ test results for EPO.

Related links

Pantani and Ullrich’s 1998 Tour samples positive for EPO

Stuart O’Grady retires from professional cycling

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  • David Wells

    I suspect my prvious post will atract many rude and inapropriate comments.

  • David

    I am 75 years old and have been a follower of cycle sport for most of my life both as a club competitor and as a spectator. I first watched my Father racing on the tarmac track in Southampton in the 1940s and still spend every minute possible watching the sport on TV or tavelling to the stages of le Tour. Over the years it ha been obvious that the majority of competitors have been using banned substances of one sort or another. Recently things seem to have gotten better with teams such as Sky making a stand against the cheats and although I agree with their zero tollerance I think meybe this is a little to far. What I would like to see is an armistice where all past records and samples are destroyed and all competitors start with a clean sheet but with a new lifetime ban from the sport for ANYBODY caught in the future with no exceptions the ban to include becoming managers, coaches or media pundits.

  • Ken Evans

    “When the Festina Affair happened, I smashed it, got rid of it and that was the last I ever touched it.”—–Questionable, considering that he later won some big races, during an era when many riders were using EPO, blood bags, etc. O’Grady was a really solid rider, but some of his words don’t seem believable.

  • Dan Jones

    That list is a whos who of the ’98 tour. Its a level playing field when everyone does it. Thats the way it was back then, just accept it. The racing was a lot more interesting back in those days too. All these people stiring up things from the past are not achieving anything. Fine if you want to go on from now with a ‘clean’ agenda but stop dragging peoples names through the dirt who were simply doing it to keep up with everyone else…hence this article.

  • Martin Littlewood

    Should’ve read Paul Kimmage’s book beforehand!!!

  • Graham Etheridge

    Hardly a surprise anymore, they pretty well all did it at one time or another, be interesting to see if Pantani looses his Tour ‘win’ now? (He should) if its to be a level playing field.