Director General David Howman says zero tolerance incompatible with encouraging athletes to share valuable information

Following its announcement yesterday that it will not appeal the decision of the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) in the Lance Armstrong case, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has said that it will not challenge the sanctions imposed on six of his former team mates who gave testimony against him.

While the six-month bans handed out to each of Michael Barry, Georgie Hincapie – both now retired – Tom Danielson, Levi Leipheimer, Christian Vandevelde and David Zabriskie attracted criticism because of their short duration plus the fact they coincide with the close season, WADA was clear that they are in line with the World Anti-Doping Code due to the substantial assistance the cyclists concerned gave USADA in its investigation.

“The fight against doping benefits from evidence given voluntarily by athletes where it leads to the dismantling of conspiracies and the discovery of intentional doping – the Code itself supports the concept of reduced sentences for athletes in this situation,” confirmed WADA’s Director General David Howman.

“We need to encourage athletes to come forward with information that is beneficial to anti-doping cases, as very often that information is most effective evidence and this furthers the rights of clean athletes.”

While Garmin-Sharp, a team built on a firm anti-doping stance but which embraces riders willing to own up to their past, has stood by Danielson, Vandevelde and Zabriskie – the team’s manager, Jonathan Vaughters, also provided testimony to USADA – that contrasts with the zero tolerance approach taken by Team Sky.

Following publication of USADA’s reasoned decision, the British ProTeam announced that Barry’s employment had been terminated, and since then race coach Bobby Julich and sports director Steve de Jongh have also left the team, confessing to having doped during their careers after Sky required all staff to recommit to its anti-doping policy.

Sean Yates, sports director during Bradley Wiggins’ successful Tour de France campaign, has also departed, retiring from the sport altogether, citing health and family reasons.

As a former team mate of Armstrong at Motorola and later on directeur sportive at Discovery Channel and Astana, he had been widely expected to be one of the casualties in the fallout from the Armstrong affair, and while he and Sky have been clear that his leaving is unconnected to doping, the timing has been unfortunate to say the least.

Elsewhere, Matt White’s admission of doping during his career saw him lose his jobs as men’s road co-ordinator for Cycling Australia and sports director at Orica-GreenEdge.

Without naming names or citing those specific examples, Howman said that the value of the evidence that can be provided by athletes involved in anti-doping cases “is why WADA has reservations about the zero tolerance idea that is currently being suggested. We all want clean sport, but in order to achieve that there has to be some incentive for people to come forward and help the anti-doping authorities.

“There is no point asking anyone to fully disclose matters from the past that nobody knows of and possibly will never will know about, if the outcome for them is a long sanction or the loss of their job. That simply leads to a code of silence or a continuation of the ‘omerta’ that obviously ran rampant in cycling.

“WADA is always open to suggestions that enhance the fight against doping in sport, but there needs to be a thorough realization of how zero tolerance might effectively operate before embracing it as a principle,” he added.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.