Updated: Steve de Jongh leaves Sky issues statement on his doping past and why he came clean
Dutchman becomes third member of Sky management team to leave in four days
Steven de Jongh has left his position as sports director at Team Sky after admitting to taking a banned substance earlier in his career.
In a statement published on his website de Jongh admitted to using EPO as a young cyclist between 1998 and 2000 but also said his experience was very different from the systematic approach chronicled by the USADA as evidence against Lance Armstrong. Aside from "the few occasions" when he used EPO de Jongh said he raced clean for the rest of his career. He also welcomed the chance given by Sky's restatement of its anti-doping policy to finally come clean saying:
"The discussions going on in Team Sky have given me the chance to be honest about all this. Some might think I could have kept quiet, but this is a good chance for me to talk openly, the best moment to admit my mistakes. It’s time to talk."
This is a hard thing to talk about, but I’d like to tell the truth about my experience of doping. I’ve been shocked by the stories and rumours of organised doping programmes because I’ve simply never seen anything like that.
My experience was very different. My doping was done by me, and nobody ever forced me. Of course, I always knew it was wrong and was scared of the risks I was taking. And I will always regret what I did.
I took EPO on a few occasions from 1998 to 2000. It was very easy to get hold of and I knew it couldn’t be detected. I was a fairly young rider, the opportunity was there right in front of me and it was a pretty big challenge to stay away from the temptation. There was no pressure at all from my team, the Directors or the Doctors to take it. This was my choice.
I stopped because it was wrong and it wasn’t worth the risks – to my health, to the family I wanted, or of getting caught. The years after I’d stopped doping were sometimes hard. But cycling was slowly getting better and I managed to win races clean. I think the ‘whereabouts system’ and biological passport were great things for this sport.
I’ve always believed that everyone should take responsibility for their own decisions and it’s easy to see that I made entirely the wrong ones in the past. I made my biggest mistakes a long time ago but I need to admit this so I can move on. I want to stay in this sport but I know that it can’t be with Team Sky. It’s sad to be leaving but there's no other option.
I’ve learned a lot at Team Sky and have great people around me. We came into the sport with big ambitions, and I'm proud I was part of building this team. It’s hard to let go but after three amazing years I don’t want a price to be paid later, by me or the team. I don’t want to let these people down.
The discussions going on in Team Sky have given me the chance to be honest about all this. Some might think I could have kept quiet, but this is a good chance for me to talk openly, the best moment to admit my mistakes. It’s time to talk.
I love this sport and it has been a huge part of my life. With the steps we've been taking in cycling there is a better chance than ever to compete in a clean sport. I’m certainly committed to that and everybody I’ve worked with can assure you that's the case.
I truly regret what I did. And I believe it’s important that if you make a mistake you can still get a chance in life. It would be a huge regret if my mistakes of 12 years ago meant I could no longer work in cycling. People might accept and forgive if we can only tell them what happened.
This admission has been a big shock to my girlfriend, family and friends, and I am thankful for all the support they are giving me. After this difficult decision I need to re-establish their confidence in me and to prove to my girlfriend and kids that I can give them the future we want. I hope very much to stay in this sport, and I’m sure I can play my part in its clean future.
His departure was widely expected and comes the day after Sky's other founding sports director, Sean Yates, quit his position at Sky and retired from cycling citing family and health reasons.
On Friday Bobby Julich left his coaching position with the team after admitting to doping incidents in the past.
Sky Team Principal Dave Brailsford said: “There’s no doubt about Steven’s work with us or his approach. He’s been a highly-valued Sports Director and colleague over three seasons.
“Steven deserves our respect for the courage he’s shown in being honest about the past and it’s right that we do our best to support him.
“He has our best wishes for the next step in his career.”
The 38-year-old, a former Dutch national road race champion at under-23 level, rode with the TVM-Farm Frites team from 1995 to 1999, the year before it finally collapsed under the weight of doping scandals.
He then spent six seasons at Rabobank and four years with Quick Step before moving into management in 2010 with Team Sky, where he focused mainly on its Classics squad.
His biggest victories as a rider came in the E3 Prijs Vlaanderen, which he won in 2003, and Kuurne–Brussels–Kuurne, where he triumphed in 2004 and 2008.
In the wake of the Lance Armstrong doping scandal Team Sky has moved to reaffirm its zero tolerance approach to doping.
All management, riders and staff have been required to sign up to an anti-doping declaration that included a vow by the team to sack anyone with a doping past 'in a humane way' as Dave Brailsford explained to Radio 5Live last week. According to Brailsford any member of the Sky team that admits to doping, while having to leave the team, will be supported by Sky and the rest of their contract will be paid off.