Brailsford hints at Sky softening stance on doping, but Froome fears departures

Team Sky boss talks prospect of reconciliation should past transgressions emerge from team's doping review

by Simon_MacMichael   October 25, 2012  

Chris Froome at 2013 Tour de France presentation (copyright Simon MacMichael)

Dave Brailsford has dropped a hint that Team Sky may be slightly softening its stance towards members of staff revealed to have been involved in doping in the past. However, Chris Froome, who looks likely to spearhead its challenge in next year’s Tour de France, says he fears that some riders may leave the team as a result of Sky’s move to have all personnel disclose any past involvement with performance enhancing substances.

"My view isn't draconian," Brailsford explained to BBC Sport at yesterday’s presentation of the 2013 Tour in Paris yesterday. "We've decided to sit down and talk to every single member of staff.

"People will be given an opportunity - if they represent a risk to the team going forward - to talk about it, to see if we can reconcile that and support people. It's actually been a very constructive process."

The team, which made its ProTour debut in 2010, was founded on a strict anti-doping platform, although Brailsford has since conceded that at least in terms of support staff, it is in practice impossible to implement given the scale of doping that has taken place in the past.

Team Sky’s own rider Michael Barry was among the former team mates of Lance Armstrong to give evidence against him to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), although having announced his retirement in August, the six-month ban he received is purely symbolic.

With questions also being raised about two members of Sky’s management, Sean Yates and Bobby Julich, as well as riders such as Michael Rogers – a key member of this year’s Tour de France line-up, acting as road captain – Sky revealed in the aftermath of USADA’s decision on the Armstrong case that it planned to have all staff sign a declaration that they had not been involved in doping.

That decision was publicly criticised by Jonathan Vaughters, another former team mate of Armstrong’s who provided evidence against him, as did three riders from the team Vaughters went on to co-found Slipstream Sports, now racing as Garmin-Sharp, on a strict anti doping platform.

"It’s just not the correct course for them to try and change history,” Vaughters said last week. “They would be better served by realising that people of that generation do have a lot to commit and contribute.”

The difference between the two approaches is perhaps best exemplified by David Millar, arrested by French police while having dinner with Brailsford in Biarritz in 2004 and subsequently banned for two years for EPO use.

While Millar eventually found his home at Slipstream, and informally discussed the possibility of joining what would become Sky with Brailsford, the zero tolerance policy eventually adopted, which unlike Slipstream's policy applies to past offences too, made his riding for the team impossible.

Besides team manager Vaughters, three current Garmin-Sharp riders testified to USADA and received six-month bans – Christian Vande Valde, Tom Danielson and David Zabriskie.

Brailsford’s references to reconciliation and potential future risk to the team suggest that Sky may have reassessed its approach to the issue, yet Froome still fears that there will be departures from the team.

Also speaking in Paris yesterday, the Kenya-born British rider who finished runner-up in this year’s Tour – their roles look likely to be reversed in 2013, with Wiggins targeting the Giro and Froome assuming leadership in the Tour – reflected on the possibility of colleagues being sacked as a result of any disclosures made as part of the review process.

"That's going to be part of the losses the team has to make to be able to go forward," he said, adding, "I've had my interview, it was very straightforward."

The 27-year-old revealed that he had been questioned as to whether he had "done anything" or was "likely to be linked to anything," and after replying in the negative, was given the statement to sign.

"I wish it was that simple for everybody on the team," he commented, adding, “we have staff and riders who rode in that time.”

Froome also urged Armstrong to admit doping to enable "a chapter could be closed."

He added: "I think it probably would help people to move on because, at the moment, there's a lot of finger-pointing and anger towards him."

12 user comments

Oldest firstNewest firstBest rated

Sky do seem to give their critics ammunition by making an initial statement and then backtracking somewhat, e.g. saying they won't employ people involved in doping and then using Leinders because he has the experience of treating riders racing flat out in extreme heat and now this. I don't disagree at all with what they're doing, it's just that they would seem to benefit from thinking and then announcing rather than vice versa.

posted by Sadly Biggins [268 posts]
25th October 2012 - 14:00


Sky are just the Coalition party of Pro cycling.

Making statements and promises, then as fast as you can blink, they do a U-Turn.

I think Dave B might have had a chat with the team and sussed out who he might lose and though, oh shit, its that bad......

Gkam84's picture

posted by Gkam84 [9291 posts]
25th October 2012 - 14:06


Agreed Gkam84 - it certainly looks that way.

If you're a doper and it's not widely known/suspected, why wouldn't you sign what Sky want? After all, you've cheated once already and got away with it. If, however, you're clean but think it's a pointless gesture, your only choice is to sign because to do otherwise means leaving and then everyone assuming you're juiced.

posted by Sadly Biggins [268 posts]
25th October 2012 - 14:41


I suspect that Yates, Julich and Rogers could all be replaced but losing Sutton would be a real blow to the track programme

posted by Huw Watkins [88 posts]
25th October 2012 - 14:47


Exactly how McQuaid dug a hole for himself, favouring high profile personalities and coming down hard on no hopers. Black and white decisions soon went out the window.


antonio's picture

posted by antonio [1092 posts]
25th October 2012 - 15:41


Agree that losing Sutton would be massive, but dont underestimate the important of Yates - the rest of Sky's DS line-up are relatively recently-retired riders turned DSs, and none of them have the tactical nous at big stage race level, never mind the Tour, of Yatesy. Every major stage race Wiggins and team have won this year has had Yates as lead DS.

Julich also has been a very successful coach for some of the Sky guys - he's a TT specialist and Froome in particular has improved hugely since working with him. Julich was also majorly important in helping to get Joe Dombrowski and Ian Boswell to join Sky, when they could both have had the pick of any major ProTour team.

posted by Sam1 [220 posts]
25th October 2012 - 15:44

CycleGringo's picture

posted by CycleGringo [94 posts]
25th October 2012 - 16:37


Looks like Bobby Julich is off! Team Sky News Section.

CycleGringo's picture

posted by CycleGringo [94 posts]
25th October 2012 - 16:38


Team Sky can confirm that Bobby Julich has left the team after two seasons as Race Coach

After the team reaffirmed its position on anti-doping last week, Bobby has disclosed having taken a banned substance in his past as a professional rider in the late 1990’s.

Team Principal Dave Brailsford said: “Bobby has shown courage in admitting to the errors he made long before his time with Team Sky. We understand that this is a difficult step for him and we’ve done our best to support him.

“It’s important to emphasise that there have been no doubts about his work with us or his approach as a coach. He has done a good job and been a good colleague during his two years with us. Bobby has our best wishes for the future.

“We’ve made clear our commitment to being a clean team and been open about the steps we’re taking. Although it’s never easy to part, we believe this is the right thing to do.”

CycleGringo's picture

posted by CycleGringo [94 posts]
25th October 2012 - 16:40


This is so not the right way to be going with this

And meanwhile 90% of the other 17 ProTour teams will do naff all

posted by Sam1 [220 posts]
25th October 2012 - 17:27


If I were Jonathan Vaughters I'd be biding my time in replacing Allan Peiper. He might have the pick of a crop of good DS's at this rate.

I have very split feelings on the Team Sky stance. From a purist perspective, it's admirable. It would never work if every team were to do it, but if you accept that only one of the Pro Tour teams is going about it this way, then it stands. Brailsford has never been afraid to be different, and that often works to the team's benefit. And it sends a very strong message to any current rider considering doping, which is positive.

But on the other hand, I do believe in rehabilitation. These people are genuinely very sorry, and in honesty, probably already rehabilitated. They have professional and human worth, and their past mistakes do not detriment their current performances, or cause them to have negative influence on the young riders they are working with. It seems churlish to ask them to leave for poor decisions made many years ago, unless they have directly lied in the Team Sky hiring process - which i guess puts a slightly different spin on things.

Good on Bobby for coming clean though, it is a well written statement from him.

andyspaceman's picture

posted by andyspaceman [242 posts]
25th October 2012 - 17:49


Sam1 wrote:
This is so not the right way to be going with this

And meanwhile 90% of the other 17 ProTour teams will do naff all

Probably right and a pity because if they truly want to clean up the sport they would embrace this and force the issue.

posted by RTB [119 posts]
25th October 2012 - 18:08