Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford said yesterday that hiring Belgian doctor Geert Leinders, who is now under investigation for involvement in doping, was a mistake. Leinders denies any involvement in doping.
“The whole thing is my responsibility,” said Brailsford. “I will take that squarely on the chin. It’s something I regret, it’s a mistake.”
“I should not have done it. I made an error of judgment.”
Leinders was brought into Team Sky on a freelance basis in 2010 after the death of soigneur Txema Gonzalez during the 2010 Tour of Spain (Vuelta a España). 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. Brailsford later said that the team’s original policy of employing only doctors from the United Kingdom who had no connection with road cycling in Europe left it ill-prepared to deal with some medical problems.
In July last year Team Sky was severely criticised for employing Leinders after accusations emerged that he had been tolerant of doping while working for the Rabobank team.
Brailsford defended his decision to use Leinders at the time, saying: “I categorically, 100 per cent say that there’s no risk of anything untoward happening in this team since he been with us.
“I’ve seen nothing and neither have the full-time medics. I’d put my life on it. He’s done nothing wrong here, but we have a reputational risk.”
Leinders was not part of the team’s staff during Team Sky and Sir Bradley Wiggins’ domination of the 2012 Tour de France, and Sky severed relations with Leinders in October 2012.
In February, Belgian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into Leinders after various former Rabobank riders alleged he had been involved in doping at the team. Leinders left Rabobank in 2009 at around the time its management announced the implementation of a strict anti-doping policy.
In March former Rabobank rider Michael Rasmussen claimed that Leinders had organised doping while he was employed by the Dutch team. Rasmussen claimed he first underwent a blood transfusion in 2004, administered by Leinders.
“The courier dropped the blood bag off, he picked it up and took it to my room and infused it,” said Rasmussen.
With Team Sky rider Chris Froome leading the Tour de France, Brailsford said questions about doping were inevitable.
“At the end of the day we all know the level of suspicion that is in or around the sport and it’s only right that we have to sit here and answer questions,” Brailsford said.
“We have to take it on the chin, that’s the reality.”
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.