Former Discovery Channel and Team Sky sporting director, Sean Yates, has told the BBC that Lance Armstrong was ‘a big figure that they hunted down’ and says he feels it is unfair that Armstrong has taken ‘the brunt of the publicity and the brunt of the blame’.
In 2013, Armstrong himself claimed: “I have experienced massive personal loss, massive loss of wealth while others have truly capitalised on this story.” Yates, a team-mate of Armstrong’s at Motorola and also a member of the American’s Discovery management team from 2005, appears to have some sympathy with this point of view.
“Lance was a big figure that they hunted down, along with others obviously, but he was the stand-out figure and he took the brunt of the publicity and the brunt of the blame – unfairly in my opinion. Ultimately people will make up their own minds somewhere down the road, but that may be a few years to come yet.”
Yates was one of three high profile members of Team Sky to leave the Tour de France-winning team after their zero-tolerance approach to doping was restated in the wake of the Lance Armstrong affair in 2012. While Bobby Julich and Steven De Jongh left after admitting doping during the late 1990s, Yates said he was retiring from cycling for personal and health reasons.
Yates has denied any knowledge of the systematic doping detailed in the United States Anti-Doping Agency’s (USADA) 2012 reasoned decision. However, while he was not named in the evidence, he does appear in a photo listed as Exhibit A with Frankie Andreu’s affidavit in which he has his arm around the shoulders of "Motoman" (face redacted) outside the Stars 'n' Bikes bike shop.
Yates, Julich and de Jongh have since been reunited at Oleg Tinkov’s Tinkoff-Saxo team. Yates is working as one of the team's sport directors, the same role he performed in 2012 at Sky as part of a team that secured Sir Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France victory. He is expected to return to the Tour de France in 2015 to aid Alberto Contador’s bid.
Yates describes both Contador and Team Sky’s Chris Froome as being ‘a level above’ last year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali. “Hopefully they both stay on their bikes this year and it’s a good clean fight, and may the best man win.”