SPORTING legend Roger Bannister has said Britain still has plenty of reasons to be "bursting with pride" over its sportsmen and women.

The former athlete and physician, 87, who made history in March 1954 by running the first sub-four-minute mile, has implored people not to be "swathed in doleful pessimism" by recent reports of drugs cheating ahead of the upcoming Olympics.

In a letter to The Times last week, he wrote: "There will always be failures, wrongdoing and cheating in every human endeavour.

"Britain should be bursting with pride over our Froomes, Murrays, Ennis-Hills and Mo Farahs. They inspire amateur athletes all over the world.

"It would be a poor heart that did not rejoice at the memory of the 2012 London Games, which changed the lives of many able and disabled athletes athletes. Let us face the future with optimism."

Last week, Oxford resident Sir Roger, who revealed to the Oxford Mail two years ago he has Parkinsons Disease, was the subject of a new BBC documentary, 'Everest on the Track', which explored the years in the run-up to his triumph.

It told of the bleak years of rationing and poverty following the First World War formed the backdrop to his arrival at Oxford University and how a young Roger Bannister had unsuccessfully tried to run a four-minute mile in 1953, ahead of his famous sporting feat.

Interviewees recalled the moment audiences waited with their hearts in their mouths, then erupted in cheers as the winning time was read out.

One observer said: "Everyone exploded and people ran all over the track; people didn't know how to express their joy.

"There hadn't been joy of this kind since the war. People lifted Bannister up like a Roman hero on their shoulders and carried him around the track."

In the 60-minute piece various people, including George Dole, the only American in the 1954 race, compared the young Roger Bannister's achievement to climbing Everest.

Sir Roger said the two were "absolutely not" comparable but added: "I think they were similar in the sense that there were barriers that needed to be broken.

"It was inadvertent, but nevertheless in people's minds they became linked [after wondering] whether there was any spark left after we won the war."

He added that he believed there were still more milestones to be reached in sport: "Someone in the next year or two will run the marathon in under two hours."