Australia's Tour de France champion Cadel Evans has issued a plea for cycling fans not to abandon the sport as it reels from a doping scandal, saying it has moved on from the past.
Evans's comments come after US rider Lance Armstrong was stripped of seven Tour de France titles, following the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) branding him the central figure in a sophisticated, systematic doping scheme.
"Behind the news, hysteria and sensationalism, I hope that people remember that the events being uncovered mostly occurred seven or more years ago, amongst a minority of those involved in a sport which has already changed and moved on," Evans said in a diary entry posted on his website on Tuesday.
Evans, 35, said recent events were "difficult and confronting" for both those involved in the sport and fans, as he urged people to commend the authorities who are succeeding in the battle against doping.
He said the sport had learned from the mistakes of the past and was now at "a level playing field where the hard work, meticulous equipment preparation and natural ability are winning the big beautiful prestigious races."
"For those who are disappointed with the situation right now: do not despair, do not abandon us now we are in our best years, preparing things for our most important moment yet -- the future...," he wrote.
Earlier this week Evans acknowledged meeting a doctor at the centre of the doping scandal, saying he spoke to Michele Ferrari in 2000 but they never discussed anything untoward.
"There was never any discussion of doping or any sign of anything illegal," he told Australia's Special Broadcasting Service of his meeting with Ferrari, whom USADA has handed a lifetime ban for his role in an extensive doping network that included Armstrong.
Key cycling figures, including disgraced American cyclist Tyler Hamilton and Australian anti-doping expert Anne Gripper, have hailed Evans's 2011 Tour de France win as a victory for clean cycling.