Johannesburg - High levels of doping in cycling at an international level deterred Malcolm Lange from competing in Europe, the former South African professional cyclist said on Wednesday.
"We know the sport has had a bad image with doping and that was one thing that deterred me from the sport," he said.
Lange was speaking at the launch of his tell-all book "Is Winning Everything? Success as defined by cycling legend Malcolm Lange".
The 39-year-old said his refusal to use performance-enhancing drugs, which were rife at the time, led to his move home in 1996 to continue his cycling career.
"This whole doping issue made me make the decision that I want to come back to South Africa and build cycling here. Doping was always available and guys could easily get a hold of it.
"If I wanted to be chasing podium places consistently in Europe, I would have to adopt a win-at-all-costs approach, which meant putting my health and my integrity at risk.
"I was there for many years and I decided that's not the avenue I want to take and I stayed clean, and I came back locally and built teams up here and raced a lot more on the local scene."
Lange said he had been unfairly criticised about his return, with his detractors saying the move was due to him being unable to compete in Europe.
"I've had some really big international wins abroad, as well as winning a big race. That was my focus and that’s what I wanted to do. I won at least 20 races in three seasons in Europe as an amateur between 1993 and 1995.
"When I turned professional for a Belgian team in 1996, I realised that I was up against a system I had no control over."
Throughout his 17-year career, Lange won numerous South African road and track titles, including Cape Argus Cycle Tours, three Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenges and six MTN Amashova National Classics.
He holds the record for back-to-back wins at the Momentum 94.7 Cycle Challenge, in 2000 and 2001.
Lange believed there were many riders in South Africa who could continue to do well internationally without using banned substances.
"We have great talent. We have Reinardt Janse van Rensburg, who's been racing incredibly well in Europe and it shows you that we can produce great champions."
With the improved testing standards, Lange hoped doping would decrease.
"Testing is getting better and that’s why the guys are getting caught. The testing that cycling has is really brilliant and R10 from every book is going to Drug Free Sports to curb the problem we have in doping in all sports."