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Retiring Cooke bows out with swipe at drug cheats

Britain's Nicole Cooke is seen before the women's cycling road race final at the London 2012 Olympic Games July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble
Britain's Nicole Cooke is seen before the women's cycling road race final at the London 2012 Olympic Games July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's 2008 Olympic road race champion Nicole Cooke retired from cycling on Monday with a parting shot at the drugs cheats who she said had "robbed" her.

"I do despair that the sport will ever clean itself up when rewards of stealing are greater than riding clean. If that remains the case, the temptation for those with no morals will always be too great," Cooke, 29, told the BBC.

"I have ridden through some of the darkest days of the sport in terms of corruption by the cheats and liars."

Cooke, who won gold in Beijing and took the world title in the same year, played a supporting role in the London Games as her rival Lizzie Armitstead took silver in the road race.

The 2002 Commonwealth Games champion spared no punches in her assessment of those who demeaned the sport by doping.

"Yes I have suffered as a result, in many ways, but so what? I am not alone, I am one representative of that group, those who do it right," she said.

"I have been robbed by drugs cheats but am fortunate, I am here with more in my basket than the 12-year-old dreamed of."

"But for many people out there who do ride clean, people with morals, many of these people have had to leave the sport with nothing after a lifetime of hard work - some going through horrific financial turmoil."

Cooke, who won a number of prestigious one-day races in Europe, said she had been offered drugs during her career in cycling.

"I have faced up to the temptations but have always remained true to the 12-year-old inside me.

"I have had days where temptation to start on to the slippery slope was brought in front of me. I said I would do my best until I had to drop out of the race, but I was not taking anything."

(Writing by Justin Palmer; Editing by Clare Fallon)

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