Sky Principal Dave Brailsford is committed to sticking to the team’s strict zero-tolerance approach to doping, but is coming in for increasing levels of criticism for the approach.



Every member of Sky staff will be interviewed by Brailsford in the coming days and weeks where they will be asked to pledge that they have no doping ties. Anyone who does admit to drug use in a previous career will have their contracts terminated.



Canadian rider Michael Barry retired at the end of the season, before the USADA’s reasoned decision came out in which he admitted to doping while on the US Postal squad. He had denied any such past when first signing for Sky at the end of 2009 and re-affirmed that position in 2010 when Floyd Landis named Barry as being involved in the organised doping program in Armstrong’s team.



“It truly is an intelligence step,” former HTC-Highroad boss Bob Stapleton told Cycling Weekly. “What are people going to say? ‘If I confess, you’re going to fire me. If don’t and you find out later, you’re going to fire me. So, let me see. Do I want to get fired now or later?'”



Stapleton took over the T-Mobile team amid the Operación Puerto scandal of 2006. In the following five years, he brought in sponsors Columbia and HTC, and developed many of the sports current stars, including Mark Cavendish. However, early on, he was forced to deal with sports directors Rolf Aldag’s and Brian Holm’s admissions of past drug use. The two admitted to doping when they raced professionally, but were able to keep working with Stapleton’s team.



“I don’t think [zero-tolerance is] a realistic strategy,” continued Stapleton. “We did this at Highroad. We said, ‘Do we believe these people are part of the solution? Or are they part of the problem?’ We made decisions on an individual basis.



“I respect [Sky’s] intent, I believe in zero-tolerance, but that is around people’s conduct in the organisation. Forced confessions are not the basis to build a team on. [It] is a failed tool that’s been tried before.”



Brailsford explained to The Guardian on Thursday how he believes times have changed and that he is doing all he can. “It will be a supportive discussion whereby we can encourage the truth. The information now, the context now, is different to what it was before. I’ve read the [USADA/Lance Armstrong Reasoned Decision] report and found it quite shocking, the light of that will direct the discussions,” said Brailsford.



“We tried to have a [zero-tolerance] policy and we are not going to change that. It has proved very challenging to implement. It’s back to basics, we are looking at it all again.”



Michael Rogers admitted in 2006, before he joined the team, that he received training plans from banned doctor Michele Ferrari in 2005 and 2006. Sports director Sean Yates rode with Armstrong in team Motorola and was a directeur sportif in his Discovery Channel team in 2005, but told BBC Radio last week, “I worked with Lance but never had any inclination that this type of practice was going on.”



“It’s just not the correct course for them to try and change history,” team Garmin-Sharp’s General Manager, Jonathan Vaughters told The Telegraph. “They would be better served by realising that people of that generation [who doped] do have a lot to commit and contribute.” Vaughters rode with Armstrong. He too testified to USADA and admitted that he doped.

“[Sky] have zero tolerance for doping. Great. But what constitutes doping according to them? Is it an anti-doping rule violation? Is it grounds for suspicion? Or are they merely relying on what the athlete tells them?” Dr Michael Ashenden told The Telegraph. Ashenden helped develop the biological passport and is an anti-doping expert.



“Take Sean Yates as an example, who is pertinent because of his prominent links to Armstrong and photos of him arm in arm with ‘Motoman’ [Armstrong’s EPO courier] floating around on the internet. Let me be clear that I don’t know if he’s doped in the past or not. But if he tells Sky that he hasn’t, is that the end of the matter, or does Sky intend to actively investigate what Brailsford calls ‘repetitional risks’ and act on what they find if there are grounds to suspect someone has been associated with doping?”



Stapleton added that if Sky intends to stick to its zero-tolerance approach then it has to act swiftly.



“They need to man up and get rid of people that they have concerns about,” Stapleton told Cycling Weekly. “What happens if somebody says, ‘No. I’ve never doped. ‘I never saw anything suspicious and I never saw anything…’ What do you do about that, when there’s a high-degree of likelihood they’re lying? What’s the standard of proof you need?”

  • Mike Cope

    The current DB approach smacks of style over substance — we have constantly heard about marginal gains / attention to detail etc etc , yet when push comes to shove , Team Sky have made as many dodgey signings as other teams who don t proclaim to be super pure , so whats actually been achieved -please no cover ups — why didn t you get it right first time Dave Brailsford ?

  • Janet Mozelewski

    Johnny c…WORD.
    Db seems to be using zero tolerance as a smoke screen. The idea that he was ignorant of all that was going on, or ignorant of the back-story of most of the people involved in taht preiod of pro-cycling is beyond credence, surely. Which, taken further, means the zero-tolerance strategy is about hiding the truth rather than revealing it.

  • David

    DB and Sky are going further than any other team to clean up their act, and they’re slated for it! Talk about double standards…

  • stephen

    I think sky’s attitude is great, jv may poke holes in it but did matt white not take trent lowe to postals old doctor this could have happened with other riders undermining his whole project if yates has to g he has to go as well as other people.

  • GeordieJim

    I think Brailsford has got it wrong. Zero tolerance going forward, YES. The ones who have doped should be allowed to confess without being sacked. Take a leaf out of Bob Stapletons’ book. I think we need a WADA led amnesty across all sports so that apart from a chance to clean up cycling, people realise that doping is not just a cycling problem.

  • johnny c

    db isn’t so innocent, or as ignorant as he portrays. he’s immersed in it. read millar’s book. he knew all this from millar directly when he was putting sky together with millar’s sister. i love paul kimmage who called db on it on twitter over the weekend. pual apperently begged db to get micheal barry to come clean and pitch in yeears ago. then there’s lienders, rabobanks notorious doping doctor with several riders sanctioned under his care. you want me to believe that sky’s hands are clean and that tdf performance was pan y agua? dream on. perhaps not banned, but certainly not pan y agua either. and go jv for taking paul in the car. what do suppose db was afraid of?

  • Justin Goff

    So will it be goodbye Shane Sutton then? Somehow I doubt it……

  • bryan

    if anyone ever thought armstrong done it clean then they are the fools. He absolutely hammered a pack full of known, and caught dopers.Brailsford has got the right philosophy,and to implement it fully will take longer than the 3 yrs he has had,but i have faith he will do it,he wont give up until he has.hes that sort of person.cycling needs more people like him.

  • Mike G

    Dave B is clearly a coaching genius, I’ll be first in the queue when his management theory book comes, but I do think he’s going overboard here. Nobody can argue with zero tolerance towards the riders, old and new, but trying to apply it to coaches and backroom staff is just going to weaken the team.

    Most of the Sky names allegedly linked with dodgy pasts are of a certain age which means they were around the peloton in the 80’s/90’s/00’s, the time when basically everyone was doing it. Some of the Sky coaching team are also GB track coaches, so how far does he intend the crossover to be?

  • Andy

    I can understand the huge damage that has been done (once again) by the latest doping scandal. But I thing DB’s viewpoint is understandable but over the top. Everyone needs to come clean and and receive the equivalent of a caution “we hope you have a think about your behaviour,etc…’ The 2012 Olympics and this year’s TdF showed how good cycling can be.

  • jimmy the fish

    That’s it lads, enough is enough. At this rate they’ll after sacking Phil Liggett just because he commentated on the races and spoke of Mr. Armstrong on first name terms. Anyhow Sky are in the clear, they are mostly about boozing

  • David

    I actually feel sorry for Sky. They hired a doctor who was linked to doping and ended up facing constant media pressure for having someone like him on the payroll. Now they are suggesting an action to try to avoid that and they get abuse. They can’t win.

    When I recruit people at work I ask them certain questions and have to assume that they are telling the truth. Ok, they are mundane questions, but I still have to make my decisions based on them. If they subsequently turn out to have lied I can potentially fire them. It is easy to look at cycling and forget how things happen in the real world. Just as in business, there is only so much you can do.

  • John

    Stapleton is right that if the penalty for honesty is the sack then this will not work. The acid test has to be whether they commited offences whilst in the emloyment of Sky. Michael Barry is only owning up to clear his conscience with no real sanction/penalty on him as he has retired. In the case of higher profile indivuduals like Sean Yates you would need to commit the part of the problem or solution test.

    Imagine the success of a work saftey share system that results in disciplinary procedure for the most trivial of poor HSE practice like walking down stairs without holding a handrail. How many people would open their mouths leading larger accidents.

  • Sam

    you know, I’m getitng fed up to the back teeth with the likes of Vaughters, Millar, Ashenden and now Bob Stapleton shooting their mouths off criticising the way Sky are going about things. I dont necessarily think Sky’s way is the best way to proceed, but Vaughters should get down from his moral high ground, given his past. Millar could have caused untold harm to the lottery funding going into track cycling back in 04 if, as was possible, he’d been picked for the IP for Athens games& trained on lottery funding. Thank god he was arrested before that happened. Given this, plus BC and Brailsford’s support through and post his ban, Millar should zip it.

  • Ginny Key

    I’m still confused. Are people blind…when you watch enough cycling over the years,can’t you see when a rider suddenly starts to win who was an average domestique,or suddenly can climb a Cat 1 when he used to drop off the back the minute the road went up. Look at the before and after!!!!! Do we really believe he suddenly has a new training scheme that no one else knows about. I can save the UCI a fortune…I can see who is naughty and who is not, and I bet I’m not the only one.

  • Chris

    I believe it is a good way to act and who knows what is in these contracts, could they have to pay back in full all of profits made while at Sky and potentially pay all daily costs while training/racing with Sky.

    I can’t imagine it is purely “If your name gets put forward for anything in the past or future then we can sack you” as they are well within their right to do that anyway. This contract will protect Sky financially and attempt to protect them commercially as well. I would trust Brailsford. Sean Yates is probably having a really rough time at the moment, out of all the photos of motoman I bet everyone at Sky was gutted to see that one, but also there are pictures of the Schlecks with motoman and no one is asking for their heads on the block.

    Time will tell, but I think looking back in 5 years time we will see 5 different TdF winners and a clean sport, probably a lot more witness statements coming forward, maybe even one of the doctors confessing all and all the riders/teams. There will be steps forward but surely everyone isn’t short sighted to believe there won’t be any more steps back.

  • Robert

    The idiotic way that Brailsford has handled this could be taken as good evidence that ‘MBAs’ don’t actually teach anyone, anything useful about management. Perhaps, instead of waffling about ‘Inner chimps’ Brailsford should hand his job over to one!

  • Elwood

    DB seems to have a different policy with his BC hat on – David Millar can ride for the road team etc.. Is this actually a sponsor-led initiative fronted by DB?

  • Geoff Powell

    Whoever you work for, lying on your CV or in an interview for the job will get you dismissed. Why should cycling be any different? Sky have consistently told their riders that they have a zero tolerance policy past, present & future.If you lied to get the job, don’t cry when you lose it.

  • Oliver

    Dave Brailsford is a very fast learner; he has proven that in the past. He should now listen to Stapleton and Vaughters and learn quickly from them. I hope he does because I support Team Sky and I am also a huge fan of Brailsford.