USADA boss Travis Tygart says Team Sky zero tolerance policy wrong way to fight doping

Man who brought Lance Armstrong down fears Sky's approach could be "counter productive"

by Simon_MacMichael   December 20, 2012  

Syringe

Travis Tygart, chief executive of the United States Anti-doping Agency (USADA), insists that Team Sky's zero tolerance approach is the wrong one to take when it comes to fighting the menace of doping within cycling.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency chief executive responsible for pursuing Lance Armstrong has said he is "very concerned" about the zero-tolerance approach taken by Team Sky to drugs, fearing it could be counterproductive.

In the wake of USADA publishing its Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case in October, Bobby Julich, one of the riders whose names were redacted in the report, left his position as race coach at Team Sky as it asked all riders and staff to reconfirm their commitment to its anti-doping policy.

Sports Directors Steve De Jongh and Sean Yates departed shortly afterwards. The former left after admitting doping during his riding career, while Yates' departure was officially stated as being for family and health reasons, though many believe that other issues also lay behind it.

According to Tygart, talking to The Guardian, rather than seeking to exclude those guilty of past trangressions from the sport altogether, it would be more constructive to put in place a truth and reconciliation commission to give them an opportunity to come clean and enable the sport to move forward.

Despite the UCI president's early enthusiasm for the idea the establishment of such a process will not be examined by the independent commission appointed to examine the UCI's role in the US Postal scanda. However, the subject of amnesty for whistleblowers is within the remit of the stakeholder consultation the governing body is holding next year. Pressure group Change Cycling Now has much more exlicitly called for a truth and reconciliation commission to be set up. Ironically given the UCI's apparent luke warmness towards the idea - UCI president, Pat McQuaid was one of the first to float the idea during the summer.

"We're very concerned about this zero-tolerance approach right now," explained Tygart.

"We firmly believe, and we've put a lot of thought into it over the last year and a half, that a limited truth and reconciliation commission and process is the only way to move forward.

"That past will come out, one way or the other – whether it's through books or athletes who retire and want to tell their kids or whatever. It's going to dig itself out drip by drip.

"But why wouldn't you now, in a very limited period of time, given the background and the other athletes involved, have an opportunity for a truth and reconciliation commission to start afresh, to have a clean sport?"

Turning to the investigation into US Postal, which resulted in Armstrong being banned for life and stripped of the seven Tour de France titles he won between 1999 and 2005, Tygart hinted strongly that further charges would be brought against others connected to the team.

"There are still several dozen redacted names from our reasoned decision," he pointed out. "Footnote 18 says we're still continuing our investigation and that's about those names."

One of those riders is believed to be Viatcheslav Ekimov, who rode for US Postal and Discovery Channel for eight years and now manager of Katusha, denied a UCI WorldTour licence for 2013, reportedly on ethical grounds.

Regarding the US Postal case in general, Tygart said: "This was the most professionalised, sophisticated doping programme that sport will ever see.

"Let's hope it never sees one of this scale and this successful. It was designed to win and they won. It was designed to keep it quiet and it kept it quiet for a long period of time. We need to show that win at all costs does have costs.

"Our interest is ensuring that no other athletes chase a dream as a young kid and end up only able to achieve that dream by using dangerous performance-enhancing drugs and then living a fraud."

Many have urged Armstrong, who had accused Tygart and USADA of pursuing a witch hunt against him before deciding not to take its charges to arbitration, to make a full confession, but the Texan has so far remained silent on the issue.

"It's undeniable what the truth is," Tygart maintained. "I don't think any reasonable people, or even unreasonable people, could question what happened. The grand heist, as we've called it, actually took place. The process has confirmed that.

9 user comments

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There is no truth and reconciliation commission so that’s not really an option for Sky? The absence of which Sky have two options:

The Garmin model: work with ex drug users which you can get on the cheap to maximise their potential clean. Suitable for a poacher turned gamekeeper type like Vaughters, who knows the ins and outs of the game.

The Sky model: "I don't want anything to do with drugs or drug users". The zero tolerance model which suits Brailsford, as he doesn't have (or want) the knowledge about the drugs in the sport, budget is less of a consideration, and is the model which is least likely to embarrass the sponsor.

To me it looks like SKY have the right model for them. Perhaps Tygarts sentiments are influenced by having most of the top US riders in the peloton having some sort of drug history?

posted by Manx Rider [18 posts]
20th December 2012 - 15:01

1 Like

Would have to agree with you Manx rider. Like it or not, the approach that might be 'better for the sport' would consist of the non-cycling media reporting that the "...supposedly clean Team Sky actually includes numerous dopers, reports our correspondent. They all maintain that they have been clean since joining the team...". To say that wouldn't go down well is an understatement.

Sky (the media corporation) didn't sign up for that, they signed up to sponsor a clean team, and who can blame them?

Last night I would have considered trading a very loud baby for a really nice bike.

posted by notfastenough [3315 posts]
20th December 2012 - 16:50

3 Likes

Let's not forget that USPS (claimed to have) had a "Zero tolerance" policy. For them it was a good way of making sure the dirt stayed under the carpet. And as some think that any such policy is just dopers PR, when a clean team has one does it serve any purpose? Might not the policy in itself cause suspicion?

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
20th December 2012 - 18:18

2 Likes

The Rumpo Kid wrote:
And as some think that any such policy is just dopers PR, when a clean team has one does it serve any purpose? Might not the policy in itself cause suspicion?

and I thought I was cynical Wink

Shay

posted by shay cycles [234 posts]
20th December 2012 - 20:59

2 Likes

Why should Sky or any other European team have any interest in the maunderings of a small-time American bureaucrat?

posted by izzi green [12 posts]
21st December 2012 - 11:13

2 Likes

Zero tolerance is the only way to have a clean sport.

You cant keep giving these riders chances to be clean. It should be that they have to be clean or banned for life, there can be no middle / muddled ground.

If a rider takes meds for an ailment they should be cleared through a Dr approved by the UCI (oh dear might have gone to far there) to say its yes or no.

Once thats done anyone caught with "stuff" in them has to pay the consequences.

There are no stupid questions, just stupid people.

stumps's picture

posted by stumps [2809 posts]
21st December 2012 - 12:53

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We seem to have been here before Stumpy. Zero tolerance and automatic life bans will only preserve the omerta. The sport will be no cleaner. The policy you suggest would have meant Armstrong got away with it, because others facing a life ban would have had nothing to gain by giving USADA evidence.

posted by The Rumpo Kid [590 posts]
21st December 2012 - 13:41

3 Likes

I can understand Tygart and Howman going on about everyone who's doped, coming forward and confessing - because that's bang in line with the aims of the agencies they both head up. However, when it gets to those actively involved in cycling, I really wonder whats going on in their heads. How many sponsors do people really think would stick around in the sport in the face of mass numbers of riders, managers, DSs and support staff confessing? Unbelieveably naive. Its alright for Vaughters - his team's main backer is a wealthy businessman who's supported him from the get-go. But other teams? Forget it.

You want the quickest way for procycling to die? Mass confessions.

posted by Sam1 [219 posts]
21st December 2012 - 17:45

1 Like

Sponsors are nothing like as naive as to think that a "clean" team really is clean ... and probably don't really care that much - it's about what they get out for what they put in ... if we examine corporate ethics in many businesses, we find that they are not only not terribly ethical, but actually don't give a rats' ass about consumer response to their lack of ethics - Starbucks being *possibly* a rare example of an organisation that when caught with it's ethical pants down, at least made a gesture at pulling them up - others mentioned in the same breath haven't been queuing up to do the same thing.

So - from a perhaps ultra-cynical point of view, in a time of financial stricture, sponsors who flee the sport on the publically stated basis of adverse publicity are probably doing so at least in part because it offers a way for them to bail out of a financial commitment they are finding it hard to afford and appear holier-than-thou at the same time, without the potential for damage to share price that might go with just saying "we don't have the marketing dollars to allocate" ...

Professional cycling didn't die in 1999 in the wake of the Festina Affair, and hasn't taken a really serious hit since, despite confessions, rumours, innuendo and public hand-wringing - it's not likely to happen now, either, even in the face of widespread confessions from riders. There are just too many vested interests.

I have to agree with Tygart - so many involved in the sport have either been directly or peripherally involved with drug taking that the best thing IS to have some kind of truly one-off amnesty, followed by a proper Zero Tolerance approach. Otherwise, we will have damaging rumours and innuendo for the next ten or twenty years. The best way to handle it is to say - "OK, guys, 'fess up now, and "x" will happen (some penalty must apply) ... and if we find out later that you were not totally straight (bearing in mind all of the ongoing lines of enquiry at present), then you are out, for life, of cycle sport, period."

It's a case of a whole truckload of red faces now and the odd hard, decisive action later, rather than an ongoing series of tabloid-style "revelations" - which is what we'll get if there is too much incentive to sweep the past under the carpet, as could so easily happen with instant "Zero Tolerance" fixes.

This week I have mostly been riding a Mondiale in Deda V107 with Campagnolo Super Record 11 ...

posted by velotech_cycling [75 posts]
22nd December 2012 - 17:24

1 Like