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" ...

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.

Simon has been news editor at 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.