Dave Brailsford has dropped a hint that Team Sky may be slightly softening its stance towards members of staff revealed to have been involved in doping in the past. However, Chris Froome, who looks likely to spearhead its challenge in next year’s Tour de France, says he fears that some riders may leave the team as a result of Sky’s move to have all personnel disclose any past involvement with performance enhancing substances.
"My view isn't draconian," Brailsford explained to BBC Sport at yesterday’s presentation of the 2013 Tour in Paris yesterday. "We've decided to sit down and talk to every single member of staff.
"People will be given an opportunity - if they represent a risk to the team going forward - to talk about it, to see if we can reconcile that and support people. It's actually been a very constructive process."
The team, which made its ProTour debut in 2010, was founded on a strict anti-doping platform, although Brailsford has since conceded that at least in terms of support staff, it is in practice impossible to implement given the scale of doping that has taken place in the past.
Team Sky’s own rider Michael Barry was among the former team mates of Lance Armstrong to give evidence against him to the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA), although having announced his retirement in August, the six-month ban he received is purely symbolic.
With questions also being raised about two members of Sky’s management, Sean Yates and Bobby Julich, as well as riders such as Michael Rogers – a key member of this year’s Tour de France line-up, acting as road captain – Sky revealed in the aftermath of USADA’s decision on the Armstrong case that it planned to have all staff sign a declaration that they had not been involved in doping.
That decision was publicly criticised by Jonathan Vaughters, another former team mate of Armstrong’s who provided evidence against him, as did three riders from the team Vaughters went on to co-found Slipstream Sports, now racing as Garmin-Sharp, on a strict anti doping platform.
"It’s just not the correct course for them to try and change history,” Vaughters said last week. “They would be better served by realising that people of that generation do have a lot to commit and contribute.”
The difference between the two approaches is perhaps best exemplified by David Millar, arrested by French police while having dinner with Brailsford in Biarritz in 2004 and subsequently banned for two years for EPO use.
While Millar eventually found his home at Slipstream, and informally discussed the possibility of joining what would become Sky with Brailsford, the zero tolerance policy eventually adopted, which unlike Slipstream's policy applies to past offences too, made his riding for the team impossible.
Besides team manager Vaughters, three current Garmin-Sharp riders testified to USADA and received six-month bans – Christian Vande Valde, Tom Danielson and David Zabriskie.
Brailsford’s references to reconciliation and potential future risk to the team suggest that Sky may have reassessed its approach to the issue, yet Froome still fears that there will be departures from the team.
Also speaking in Paris yesterday, the Kenya-born British rider who finished runner-up in this year’s Tour – their roles look likely to be reversed in 2013, with Wiggins targeting the Giro and Froome assuming leadership in the Tour – reflected on the possibility of colleagues being sacked as a result of any disclosures made as part of the review process.
"That's going to be part of the losses the team has to make to be able to go forward," he said, adding, "I've had my interview, it was very straightforward."
The 27-year-old revealed that he had been questioned as to whether he had "done anything" or was "likely to be linked to anything," and after replying in the negative, was given the statement to sign.
"I wish it was that simple for everybody on the team," he commented, adding, “we have staff and riders who rode in that time.”
Froome also urged Armstrong to admit doping to enable "a chapter could be closed."
He added: "I think it probably would help people to move on because, at the moment, there's a lot of finger-pointing and anger towards him."
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