Cooke retires with broadside at Armstrong

FORMER Olympic road race champion Nicole Cooke bowed out of cycling yesterday with a stinging attack on drug cheats and a warning not to afford sympathy to deposed Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong.

Cooke, who said she had resisted pressure to take performance enhancing substances throughout her career, called riders who doped “criminals who stole others’ livelihoods”.

The 29-year-old’s salvo comes amid speculation that Armstrong is to confess to allegations of drug use when he appears on American talk show Oprah later this week.

She added: “When Lance “cries” on Oprah later this week and she passes him a tissue, spare a thought for all of those genuine people who walked away with no reward – just shattered dreams. Each one of them is worth a thousand Lances.”

Cooke, who missed out on a place at London 2012, also criticised riders such as Armstrong’s former team-mate Tyler Hamilton, who has made headlines with a tell-all book on doping in the sport.

“I can’t help thinking that the cheats win on the way up and the way down,” she said. “Tyler Hamilton will make more money from his book describing how he cheated than I will make in years of honest labour.”

Armstrong, 37, has always denied doping but was stripped of his titles and banned for life after he stopped contesting the claims in August.