Updated: More departures from Sky "highly likely" admits Dave Brailsford after Bobby Julich confesses to doping
Race coach's name was widely thought to be one of those redacted in USADA report, departure a blow to Chris Froome
Dave Brailsford has said it is "highly likely" that Team Sky will have to "hurt ourselves" more following confirmation earlier this evening that Bobby Julich, who has worked as race coach with teh team for the past two years, has left the British WorldTour outfit after admitting doping in the late 1990s. The implication by Brailsford, speaking to BBC Radio 5 Live, is clear - Julich won't be the last to go. The American is the first member of staff to leave the team after it restated its anti-doping policy last week in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal. In his role, Julich worked particularly closely with Chris Froome, helping develop him into a rider who finished second in both the 2011 Vuelta and this year's Tour de France.
There's no way of knowing who exactly might follow Julich out of the door. Sports director Sean Yates attracted widespread criticism when he claimed earlier this month to have had no idea whatsoever that Lance Armstrong was doping when the Briton was a DS at Discovery Channel in 2005, and the Briton would also be one of his sports directors at Astana in 2009.
Unfortunately for Yates, he also appears in a photo in an appendix to USADA's Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case next to a picture of the Cote d'Azur bike shop owner claimed to be the infamous Motoman who would deliver EPO to the Texan on the 1999 Tour.
That could be nothing more than two people who have developed a friendship due to years of having a mutual acquaintance in common, but when that acquaintance is Lance Armstrong, it's not a relationship you'd want publicised in the current environment, however innocent.
Michael Rogers is a current rider of Team Sky who has specifically been named in the USADA documentation, mentioned by Levi Leipheimer in connection with training camps run by Dr Michele Ferrari after the latter had been banned by the Italian cycling federation.
Again, right now when Ferrari, also banned for life by USADA, is once again at the centre of a major anti-doping investigation in Italy, any past association with him, even if it truly is an error of judgment and one unconnected with doping as many riders incuding Rogers insist, is bound to be viewed with suspicion.
Julich himself had been widely identified as the former Motorola rider named by George Hincapie in his affidavit to the United States Anti USADA published alongside its Reasoned Decision in the Armstrong case. While USADA had redacted his name, there were enough clues to for him to be readily picked out as 'Rider 4' - his team, nationality, shared residence with other riders in Como and strong Vuelta performance in 1996, when Julich finished ninth overall.
Team Principal Dave Brailsford, who just yesterday in Paris claimed that the team would try and be sympathetic towards any staff who came forward to admit to involvement with doping, commented: “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.”
Froome had said yesterday that he feared that Sky's insistence that team staff reaffirm their commitment to its anti-doping policy would result in some departures, and the fact that it is Julich who is first to go will be a blow to the rider who is likely to lead the team in next year's Tour.
Julich is the second member of staff to depart Team Sky in the wake of the Armstrong affair, the other being the Canadian rider Michael Barry, who had already anounced his retirement prior to it being revealed that he was one of the 11 former team mates of Armstrong to have provided testimony against the Texan.
Jullich himself was once widely seen as a future Tour de France winner and riding for Cofidis finished third to Marco Pantani and Jan Ullrich in 1998, the year of the Festina scandal and the last edition before Lance Armstrong began his seven-year domination of the race. That 1999 itself race saw Julich himself abandon after crashing in an individual time trial.
He would go on to ride for Team Telekom then CSC, where in 2005 he became the first American rider to win Paris-Nice, but never quite fulfilled that potential that 1998 podium position promised - although due to the Festina affair, that was a race that only half the riders finished, with strong GC contenders such as Richard Virenque and Alex Zulle among those thrown off the race.