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Daniel Martin, Ryder Hesjedal say Garmin backs its testifying teammates

BADALING, China (VN) — Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp) dashed to second in the third stage and defended his best climber’s jersey at the Tour of Beijing, but a gaggle of journalists crowding around him Thursday wanted to talk about something else: USADA’s investigation into Lance Armstrong.

Three of Martin’s teammates — David Zabriskie, Christian Vande Velde and Tom Danielson — gave testimony in the searing report released Wednesday by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. All three are likely to serve six-month bans.

But Martin insisted that everyone within the Garmin-Sharp organization supports their teammates.

“We are going to stand behind those guys,” Martin said when asked by VeloNews. “We have full confidence in them and we are happy to have them back racing as soon as possible.”

Martin said the team has not lost its focus on competition despite the investigation and questions surrounding the roles of his three teammates and team CEO Jonathan Vaughters, who also provided testimony.

“We haven’t let it affect us. We go out there and race hard every day. We prove every day it’s possible to race clean,” said Martin.

“Ryder (Hesjedal) won the Giro clean. Christian has proven that he’s had the best results of his career since he’s come to this team. Since he’s been racing clean with Garmin. That says a lot. All three of those guys, not just Christian.”

Martin said he is lucky to have turned pro in a time when the sport has turned the corner on the doping issue. Vaughters founded the Slipstream Sports organization in part to provide a dope-free environment for riders to train and perform.

The Irishman, who penned a two-year contract extension to stay with Garmin-Sharp through 2014, said fans should give the sport the benefit of a doubt.

“I am very fortunate to turn professional when I did and have the opportunity to race for an organization like Slipstream Sports. We have proven we can do it, that we can win races clean,” he said. “We’re doing what we’re doing now. We cannot change what happened in the past. We have to move on.”

Hesjedal’s victory at the Giro d’Italia in May is viewed by many as proof that grand tours can be won without resorting to doping.

Hesjedal, also racing in China, echoed Martin’s sentiments.

“I stand by my team 100 percent. That’s why I am here,” Hesjedal told VeloNews. “I am proud of my teammates and I am proud of my team. We go out and race our bikes.”

Canada’s first grand-tour winner insisted that cycling has changed dramatically in less than a decade and said that the doping scandals of cycling’s past have little to do with its present.

“That’s the pains that the sport’s had to go through to get to where it is today. It has no reflection of today,” he said. “The sport’s made a lot of effort. It’s a completely different sport from that time. It’s plain and simple.”