The Italian hero was the guest speaker at the Tour Down Under Legends dinner last weekend and praised the sport for the courage to clean up after the biggest doping scandals including the disgraceful fall of seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.
He is still cautious, though: “It’s impossible to say it’s totally clean, but the sport has worked hard to change the mentality. Modern cycling had the courage to change, but other sports have not the courage for change. It’s impossible to say that the doping problem is finished, it’s important that the mentality has changed. All aspects of cycling have changed and they have a new approach to professional sport. I think cycling in this moment is the best sport. It’s a very good sport.”
Bettini admits he witnessed the effects of doping on the sport firsthand and even claims that everybody, even those who didn’t use EPO and other substances, took the blame.
“I had 12 years in the pro ranks, and I had seen many cases of doping. Many friends, many rivals, they were involved in cases. A doping positive was a problem for everyone. We all felt at fault. We saw so many cases,” said the Italian.
Bettini moved on to become the Italian national coach after he had ended his active career as a rider but eventually quit to create Fernando Alonso’s WorldTour team. The whole project collapsed after a while and understandably, Paolo is still upset. He apparently approached Peter Sagan, Tony Martin, and other big stars to be part of the F1 driver’s team.
“The Alonso project was going to be big, with a Formula 1 driver, it would have been big for cycling. The Fernando project was not just for a professional team, but for the women’s team, a young team, not only for cycling, but for other projects. That was the idea behind this project,” admitted Paolo with obvious disappointment.