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O'Grady persona non grata

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Stuart O’Grady’s doping confession means the disgraced Australian cycling star has gone from hero to a zero profile at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide.

O’Grady is normally one of the key figures at the race in his home city.

“It’s high on the agenda that he doesn’t want to take away from the race,” said O’Grady’s manager Max Stevens.

O’Grady retired from competition after the Tour de France last July and under normal circumstances, he would undoubtedly be a guest of honour at next week’s edition of the Adelaide race.

He was the inaugural winner in 1999, also won in 2001 and has acted as its ambassador.

But immediately after retiring, O’Grady confessed to doping early in his professional road career.

O’Grady insists he took the blood booster EPO only once in 1998.

Race director Mike Turtur, who has known O’Grady for more than 30 years, said the Tour was in a no-win situation.

“That’s the way these types of matters are dealt with, isn’t it,” Turtur said.

“You’re damned if you do and you’re damned it you don’t.

“If we still acknowledged his career, we would be criticised and attacked.

“Then there will be some people who say `okay, he made a mistake – give him a break for all the good he’s done’.

“At the end of the day, we’re here just to put on the race.”

Turtur added it is up to O’Grady whether he visits the race.

“He has no official role with the Tour, so if he comes to the race I will shake his hand … if he chooses not to come to the race, it will be his choice,” Turtur said.

“We have no issue, we have no plans.”

This could be the best race in the Tour’s history, with top Australians Cadel Evans, Simon Gerrans and Richie Porte all in strong form.

While O’Grady will keep a low profile at the Tour, he is the main drawcard at a charity dinner on Friday night in Adelaide.

His appearance at the “Ride Like Crazy – Dinner With Stuart” will be the first time he has spoken publicly since his doping confession.

SA Police are supporting the dinner, which will raise funds for the Flinders Medical Centre foundation.

The dinner has no official connection to the Tour.

O’Grady’s autobiography needed rewriting after his confession and is likely to be launched in March.

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