Team Sky Principal Dave Brailsford has defended the team’s decision to employ a former Rabobank doctor who worked at the Dutch team when it was caught up in doping scandals involving former riders Michael Rasmussen and Thomas Dekker. He added, however, that the British outfit would be investigating the background of the doctor in question, Dr Geert Leinders.
"I categorically, 100 per cent say that there's no risk of anything untoward happening in this team since he [Leinders] has been with us," insisted Brailsford, quoted on Telegraph.co.uk.
"I've seen nothing and neither have the full-time medics. I'd put my life on it,” he continued, adding: “"He's done nothing wrong here, but we have a reputational risk.
"This is not about doping. We're pushing the guys to their limits, so we need to look after them. It's about genuine medical practice," he maintained.
Brailsford went on: "We have had discussions with him and once we've established the facts, we will take the appropriate action."
Leinders, who is not at the Tour de France where Bradley Wiggins is in the maillot jaune with Team Sky colleague Chris Froome lying third overall after the pair posted the two quickest times in Monday’s individual time trial, left Rabobank in 2009.
While he has never personally faced charges in connection with doping, his involvement with Rabobank at a time when riders on the team were involved in doping scandals, plus allegations from a former rider that he helped keep his haematocrit level below the permitted maximum and departure from the Dutch team after it introduced a zero-tolerance approach to doping have been enough to fuel suspicion on internet forums.
Rasmussen was sacked by Rabobank while wearing the maillot jaune during the 2007 Tour de France after it transpired that he had lied to his team about his whereabouts for random drug testing purposes earlier in the year.
Dekker, meanwhile, was revealed in 2009 to have tested positive for EPO from a sample given during the 2007 Tour de France, when he was with Rabobank, which was tested retroactively due to a suspicious biological passport profile.
Leinders’ association with Team Sky has been one of the chief criticisms aimed at the team by some of the Twitter users that Bradley Wiggins described as “f*cking wankers” in a press conference after Sunday’s Stage 8 of the Tour de France when a journalist asked his opinion of doping allegations voiced against him and the team.
A spokesman for Team Sky said: “Sky always follow a process of finding out the facts and the truth when there are accusations and hearsay.
"He [Leinders] has been a brilliant doctor for us and completely above board during his time with us. We are completely confident of his integrity during the period of time he has worked for Team Sky."
Leinders was brought into the Team Sky set-up following the death of soigneur Txema Gonzalez during the 2010 Vuelta. The 43-year-old Spaniard died from septic shock after contracting a bacterial infection, his illness coinciding with an unrelated virus that swept through the team’s riders.
The team withdrew from the race following the death of Gonzalez, and Brailsford has acknowledged that its original policy of employing only doctors from the United Kingdom who had no connection with road cycling in Europe meant it was ill-prepared to deal with issues such as how best to treat a rider suffering from illness while attempting to carry on cycling in soaring temperatures such as those seen in that year’s Vuelta.
Leinders is one of four doctors employed on a part-time basis by Team Sky to help it deal with the rigours of its racing programme, with its medical staff headed by a full-time doctor from the UK, Alan Farrell.
In February last year, Brailsford acknowledged that in practice it was impossible to staff a professional cycling team at the top level with personnel entirely free of some association of doping, given the prevalence of abuse of performance enhancing substances in recent years.
"There's no place for drugs in the sport and we like to think that we're at the forefront of promoting clean cycling," he told The Guardian.
"That philosophy will always stay. If we thought it wasn't possible then I'd be out. However, when you're trying to lift performance, and you look at the staffing side, if you want experience of professional cycling you have to go back a long way to find people over 40 who haven't been tainted in some way.
“You have your anti-doping policy but you need to weigh it up. And, actually, if the need of the team in performance was such and there was an individual that was generally considered in the 'positive' group, to excuse the pun, then he couldn't be ruled out."
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.