Elite world cyclist and recent Olympic gold medalist Aleksandr Vinokurov says he was saddened when American Lance Armstrong gave up his battle against doping allegations, adding that it represents "a big blow [to] cycling."
The 38-year-old Kazakh-born Vinokurov, who served his own two-year suspension for blood-doping detected during the 2007 Tour de France, says similar scandals are hurting the sport.
He recently announced his retirement from professional cycling, in part to help train up-and-coming young athletes.
Armstrong, a record seven-time Tour de France winner, announced on August 23 that he was ending his defense against charges by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency that could cost him any titles earned since 1998.
"This is a big blow for cycling, and it has a very negative impact on the image of the Tour de France," he was quoted as saying by RFE/RL's Kazakh Service. "Of course, we're very sorry. Cycling is being damaged as a result of doping scandals."
Vinokurov, who fought back from a broken pelvis and femur suffered in the Tour de France in 2011 to win the gold in London a year later, suggested that "Armstrong's seven years of hard work were all wasted."
Vinokurov finished third behind Armstrong and German Jan Ullrich in the 2003 Tour de France, the cycling world's premier event.
Armstrong continues to point to hundreds of drug tests that he has passed through the years, saying he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
But sport authorities and observers alike have suggested that Armstrong's decision not to fight the USADA charges would be regarded as an admission of guilt.
Vinokourov had been expected to bow out once the season was over but instead announced his retirement in mid-August after a race in Spain, where he won the Vuelta a Espana in 2006.