Team Sky has issued a statement re-affirming its stance on doping and its commitment to winning clean. As part of that commitment each member of the team and its support staff will be required to sign up "to a clear written policy confirming that they have no past or present involvement in doping." However given the recent revelations in USADA's reasoned decision for its sanctions against Lance Armstrong will all those currently part of the Sky set-up be able to sign up?
Sky's statement (reproduced in full below) goes on to say that those who for whatever reason feel they can't sign up or who sign up and are subsequently shown to be in breach of the policy "will have to leave the team". Given recent events there has to be a question mark over the future at Team Sky of Bobby Julich, Sean Yates and Michael Rogers.
Sky commitment to its stated zero tolerance approach particularly when it comes to hiring people with a doping past has recently come under intense scrutiny. Only last week the team announced that it was ending it's association with the former Rabobank team doctor Geert Leinders who is alleged to have at best turned a blind eye to riders doping and at worst actively helped them do so.
Worse still was the revelation in the USADA evidence of Michael Barry's doping past, the Canadian who rode for Sky from 2010 until his retirement at the end of this season. In his affidavit to USADA Barry admitted to doping while riding for the USPS and Discovery Teams betwen 2002 and 2006 - something he had concealed from the powers that be at Sky when signing for them. While Barry's assertion that he rode clean after 2006 is generally accepted under Sky's zero tolerance policy he should never have been on the team.
While Michael Barry may be the most obvious name associated with Sky to have been caught up in the USADA revelations surrounding the publication of its Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case questions have also been raised about two senior members of the Sky management team team Sporting Director, Sean Yates and Race Coach, Bobby Julich. Both rode for the Motorola team in the Nineties alongside Lance Armstrong many who have read Leipheimer's testimony have joined the dots and concluded that Julich is the rider whose name is redacted as "rider 4" in George Hincapie' affidavit to USADA, like rider 4 Julich shared a house with Hincapie in Como in 1996 and also like rider 4 he did unexpectedly well at the 1996 Vuelta finishing 9th.
Given that Team Sky will be asking riders and staff to commit to having "no past or present involvment with doping" Julich may have a problem signing up if he is officially revealed to be rider 4. Even without official confirmation that he is that rider 4 the circumstantial evidence looks fairly over-whelming which must put a question mark over his future at with the team.
While Sean Yates is not named in the USADA evidence - his picture with his arm around the shoulders of "motoman" (face redacted) outside the Stars 'n' Bikes bike shop is listed as Exhibit A with Frankie Andreu's affidavit. Yates who was a member of the Discovery management team from 2005 has denied any knowledge of the systematic doping that USADA claims existed in the team. He is further damned in many people's eyes by his continued association with Bruyneel after 2005 and with Armstrong again in the first season of his comeback with Astana.
In his defence Yates can point out that he is at no point mentioned in any of the rider testimony regarding doping at USPS/Discovery and they certainly don't hold back, nor, perhaps tellingly is his image redacted in the Exhibit A photograph. USADA did redact the names and images of those implicated in doping but whose activities fell outside the scope of the Armstrong investigation - so action could be taken against them in the future. That may put a bit of distance between Yates and active inolvement with doping at Discovery but even then it stretches credibility to breaking point to believe that he didn't know that doping was taking place.
Yates is also reported to have failed a drugs test in 1989 at the first stage of the Torhout-Werchter Classic - however, the matter was dropped and he was not sanctioned due to a mix-up in the labelling of the sample. It seems inconceivable given his stature as a British cyclist and the publicity surrounding the incident at the time that Team Sky's management did not know about the Torhout-Werchter Classic test when they signed him up.
If Sean Yates were forced out there is no doubt it would be a blow to Sky, from the outside at least he seems to have played a significant part in making them a more savvy and effective racing unit and he was the man in the car calling the moves during their successful bid to win this years Tour de France. Some of their Tour-winning race tactics seemed to come straight from the USPS/Discovery playbook, but then the other thing that USPS/Discovery were good at was tactics. Yates is also part of Sky's British core and outside of the team is still very popular with many British cyclists both for the manner in which he rode as a professional and for the fact that he has continued to compete as an amateur and veteran long after his retirement.
Mick Rogers is the final member of the current Team Sky set up and the only rider still on the team to be discomfited by the revelations surrounding USADA's case againt Lance Armstrong. Levi Leipheimer says in his affidavit that in 2005 Rogers took part in two training camps run by Dr Michele 'EPO is no more harmful than orange juice' Ferrari. Although, there is no actual evidence of doping Ferrari's reputation is toxic - an Italian court convicted him of sporting fraud just a year before the training camps and he was the subject of a lifetime ban by the Italian anti-doping body CONI. Rogers has publicly admitted that he made an "error" by attending the training camps, but Team Sky have said nothing on the matter.
Statement from Team Sky
Team Sky has had a clear position on doping from the very start. We are a clean team and have shown it is possible to win clean.
We want a team in which riders are free of the risks of doping and in which fans – new and old - can believe without any doubt or hesitation.
There is no place in Team Sky for those with an involvement in doping, whether past or present. This applies to management, support staff and riders.
Like others, we have been shocked by recent revelations of systemic doping in cycling’s past. So we have taken steps to reaffirm our commitment to being a clean team.
Today the riders, staff and management of Team Sky entered their annual end-of-season camp, where we review the season, plan the year ahead, and look to the future.
At its start, Team Principal Dave Brailsford re-stated our stance on doping and called on the riders, staff and management to reaffirm their own personal commitment to our position.
Over the coming weeks, we will talk individually with each team member and ask everyone, at every level of the team, to sign up to a clear written policy, confirming that they have no past or present involvement in doping.
Should anyone choose not to sign up to our clear policy they will have to leave the team, as will anyone who does sign but is subsequently found to be in breach.
We are making this statement because we believe it is important to be open about the steps we are taking. However, we do not intend to give a running commentary on this or to discuss any individual at this time.
By reaffirming Team Sky’s position on doping, we aim to play our part in a clean future for cycling in which everyone can have confidence in the sport.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.