Cheltenham Literature Festival: Victoria Pendleton on Lance Armstrong
DOUBLE Olympic champion Victoria Pendleton fears the doping scandal surrounding Lance Armstrong could tarnish the whole sport of cycling.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Victoria told a sold-out crowd that this week's report into the seven-times Tour de France winner's use of performance enhancing drugs made her "really sad".
"Listening to the news on the radio really made my heart sink because the idea of being in a situation where you think that's the only option is really sad," she said.
"I'd rather have won nothing and be clean than to have taken drugs and won. "I feel it will tarnish the sport and people will say maybe all cycling is dirty. I personally believe it's just a very small niche of the sport.
"As someone who has competed and put so much into the sport, I don't want my success to be tarnished with such negativity."
Victoria arrived at The Forum, in Montpellier Gardens, holding her two medals from the London Olympics this summer - gold in the keirin and silver in the match sprint.
In conversation with BBC sports presenter Jill Douglas, Victoria gave the audience a taste of her autobiography, Between The Lines.
The book follows her path to world domination in cycling, from trying to keep up with her father, renowned cyclist Max Pendleton, as a child through to her record six world titles and double Olympic success.
Smaller and slighter than the average female track cyclist, she described the bullying and intimidation she experienced at all levels of the sport. "It wasn't uncommon to have girls spit on you and all sorts in the middle of a race," she said, adding that one rival competitor shook her hand at the end of a race, and through a forced smile told her: "You'll only ever be a princess, you'll never be queen."
She also opened up about her battle with self-harm, which resurfaced in 2008 when teammates and coaching staff reacted with disapproval to her relationship with Scott Gardner, a sports scientist with the British cycling team.
"Managing your emotions is something that I think takes a lot of work," she said. "Sometimes it's just a bit too much to handle."
Four years later, Victoria is preparing to marry Scott, who has been rehired by the team after initially having to leave.
And her participation in the BBC's Strictly Come Dancing with partner Brendan Cole could come in useful on her wedding day.
"Brendan has already offered to choreograph our first dance," she said.
Now retired from competitive cycling, Victoria is determined to make a success of her foray into the world of dancing before concentrating on "giving something back" to the sport that has given her so much.
And she has no regrets after choosing the London Olympics as her final competition.
"Nothing could ever be bigger or better or more meaningful," she said. "It felt like the right time for me. It's definitely my time to move on."