Sir Jim Ratcliffe has restated his position that Ineos would pull out of cycling should members of the team be caught cheating – although there was a certain ambiguity in his words regarding any events that may have taken place before he took ownership of what was up until that point Team Sky.
Former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman is currently the subject of a medical tribunal, at which he has admitted ordering a delivery of testosterone to the National Cycling Centre. The General Medical Council is attempting to prove that the substance was intended for a rider.
Freeman’s defence hinges on an allegation that former British Cycling and Team Sky head coach, Shane Sutton, 'bullied' him into ordering the banned substance for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. His defence team also accused Sutton of doping – a line of questioning that resulted in the Australian storming out of the hearing.
Team Ineos boss Sir Dave Brailsford was overseeing Freeman and Sutton at this time, giving rise to questions over the way that both British Cycling and Team Sky were run.
“Dave will have to deal with that side,” Sir Jim Ratcliffe told The Times. “I am not interested in the history – just our watch and going forward. If there are any issues for Dave, he will have to deal with those. There is nothing happening in our team.”
Speaking in May, when Ineos took over Team Sky, Ratcliffe said the petrochemicals firm would withdraw its sponsorship should members of its team be caught cheating.
Speaking in light of recent developments, he restated this position, emphasising that he strongly believed that nothing untoward had taken place.
“We checked all the procedures, everything, doctors’ records. You buy a cycling team, there wasn’t much legal work to do but we spent a lot of time on due diligence on the team.
“We had external lawyers do those checks, looking at the procedures, testing. We took it seriously. The regulations when we bought, and the procedures in Team Sky, were the most sophisticated and rigorous in the cycling world.
“Our chief counsel, who looks at compliance across Ineos, was responsible for looking at compliance in cycling. And if he ever tells me he has a concern, that will be it done for us. The day any of that enters our world then we would leave cycling. I don’t think it will.”
Ratcliffe was also questioned about suggestions that Team Ineos is too dominant – in both the financial and sporting senses.
He responded: “People quite like watching Real Madrid, don’t they, or Barcelona? It’s a bit British to say, ‘You are too successful.’”
Referring to the team’s most recent Tour victory from Egan Bernal, he added: “It was one of the most exciting Tours in 20, 30 years. Anyone could have won it with five days to go. So I am not worried about that.”