Tour de France champion Bradley Wiggins believes there is a place in cycling for those who have doped in the past but have put it behind them. His remarks, made to Sky Sports News, are at odds with the zero tolerance approach adopted by Team Sky, which led to the departure last autumn of race coach Bobby Julich and sports director Stephen De Jongh.
"We've had this zero tolerance from the point we started and we've never veered off that, to the point that riders who've admitted to problems in the past have moved on,” reflected Wiggins.
"But I don't think it's about [putting heads on blocks], he went on. “People make mistakes in life, and a lot of these people have made decisions 10-15 years ago which are coming back to haunt them. They can't be vilified for that in some areas.
"Bobby Julich is a classic example - in 1998 he finished third in the Tour de France, he's admitted to doping and has now moved on from the team.
"While he served his time here was 100% an advocate of anti-doping as someone who'd experienced it and been put under pressure to do what he did back in '98.”
Julich had admitted to having doped between 1996 and 1998 after Team Sky required its staff and riders to reconfirm their commitment to its anti-doping policy in the wake of the Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case published by the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) last October.
Former Sky rider Michael Barry, who had announced his retirement shortly beforehand, was one of USADA’s witnesses and received a six-month ban, and information in the Reasoned Decision had led to Julich being widely identified as a former Motorola rider whose name had been redacted in the report.
Wiggins cited David Millar, who rode alongside him for the Great Britain team when Mark Cavendish won the rainbow jersey at Copenhagen in 2011 and again last summer in the Olympic road race, as a past doper whose experience could provide lessons for future generations.
After he was banned for two years in 2004 after admitting using EPO, Millar helped British Cycling and UK Anti-Doping formulate their policies on anti-doping, including protecting younger riders, and is currently in New York for a meeting taking place tomorrow and Wednesday of the World Anti Doping Agency’s athlete committee which he sits on.
"I think in some cases the reformed characters - David Millar and that - as people who've actually experienced it they can help youngsters on the way not to go, and I think in a way we need some of those people within this sport," maintained Wiggins.
Like Julich, De Jongh also left Team Sky after admitting using EPO, in his case between 1998 and 2000. He has since joined Saxo-Tinkoff as sports director.
Sean Yates, whose own past was also scrutinised in the wake of USADA’s reasoned decision – an appendix included a picture of the Team Sky sports director alongside the Cagnes-sur-Mer bike shop owner said to be the ‘motoman’ drugs courier linked to Armstrong and US Postal - also left Sky at the same time, although his departure was officially attributed to health and family reasons.
USADA CEO Travis Tygart is among those who has criticised Team Sky’s zero tolerance approach, describing it as counter productive and insisting that a truth and reconciliation process was key to moving the sport on from the fallout of the Armstrong scandal.
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.