Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, who is participating in the Institute for Drug-Free Sport’s I Play Fair team cycling in the 2012 Cape Argus Pick n Pay Cycle Tour, led a training cycle ride today in preparation for the event to spread the message of ethics, fair-play and anti-doping in sport.

The Premier and one hundred cyclists completed a training ride from Cycle Lab in Buitengracht Street to the beginning of the new cycle lane in Culemborg, then to Woodbridge Island and back to the starting point.

Helen Zille training ride for I Play Fair cycling team. Photo Credit: Greg Beadle

Commenting on her participation in riding in her first Cape Argus Cycle Tour this year as a member of ‘Team I Play Fair’, Zille says: “We have huge societal issues with drug use in the Western Cape and in our schools. As Premier of the province, I hope to help raise awareness of alternatives to drug use by promoting clean sport, especially among our young people as we know lectures on the dangers and perils of drug use are not enough. Participating in the Cape Argus Cycle Tour is another way to help raise awareness against drug use and also to promote healthier living through exercise.”

Zille, who has not cycled in about 50 years, says that she is enjoying training for the cycle race. “I am able to live more healthily by including the training into my schedule,” she adds. “I have also found the overwhelming support from the public that I received after it became known that I would ride the race very encouraging.”

Part of her mandate as Premier is to help promote the Western Cape as a sporting destination. “The Western Cape is an ideal sporting destination for recreational sports enthusiasts, professional athletes and international events,” she says. “The Cape Argus Cycle Tour is one of our signature events that not only showcases the beauty of the Cape Peninsula, but also the efficiency of the local government infrastructure that is able to support 35,000 cyclists and their supporters to safely enjoy their cycle ride.”

SA Institute for Drug-Free Sport CEO, Khalid Galant, says that the public attention around the participation of the Minister of Sport and the Premier of the Western Cape has already contributed to greater awareness around drug-free sport. “The support of our high ranking public officials and celebrities to our ‘I Play Fair, Say No! to Doping’ campaign allows us to communicate with a more diverse audience who may not be very well acquainted with the real dangers of drugs in sport.”

The I Play Fair team of 25 riders is made up of various public figures and celebrities from sport and other professionals including former Miss 2010 SA Bokang Montjane, political activist Zackie Achmat, Bike Pure SA’s ambassador Yolande Pretorius, TV personality Vanessa Haywood, and President of Triathlon SA Dr. Debby Alexander.

Galant adds, “Our aggressive approach to tackling anti-doping in sport through the celebrity cycle team I Play Fair includes promoting the message of sharing our roads. It’s important that there is mutual respect from both drivers and cyclists and we must be conscious of one another on the roads.”

For their part, Cycling SA will be taking a proactive stance this year on developing more campaigns to highlight the importance of cycling road safety.

Follow the ‘I Play Fair’ cycling team via Twitter (@iplayfairZA, #saynotodoping #cycletour), follow the Premier’s progress via Twitter (@helenzille).

The Institute is encouraging all South African sportsmen and women, coaches and fans to take the ‘I Play Fair – Say NO! To Doping’ pledge by visiting www.drugfreesport.org.za the mobi-site: m.drugfreesport.org.za, on the Facebook Page (iplayfairZA) or via Twitter (@iplayfairZA)