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Skyfall: Is Team Sky's Zero-tolerance Stance on Doping Doing More Harm Than Good?

Posted: 31/10/2012 19:45

It's a question Daniel Friebe asks in the latest addition of Cycling News HD, and it is starting to look like it might be. Admirable though the team's sentiments undoubtedly are, they are losing experienced staff such as Bobby Julich and Steven De Jong - who have brought nothing but hard work and good knowledge to the British set-up - over misdemeanours that lie well in the past. Add in the timing of Sean Yates' retirement, and they are attracting to themselves a whole host of bad publicity at the end of an otherwise triumphant season - publicity other teams are avoiding by simply keeping quiet. As Daniel argues, it looks like a spectacular own goal for a team sponsored by one of the country's biggest media outlets.

Undoubtedly, Team Principal Dave Brailsford sees a bigger picture and will hope that taking a few hits now will see Sky rewarded for their honesty and allow the team to cement their position at the head of a new, clean sport. But other teams have taken different routes towards the same aim - most notably Garmin, who employ ex-dopers provided they can convince that their experiences have strengthened their resolve to help the next generation of riders avoid being forced into making the same mistakes. The American team's policy certainly looks the more coherent right now, but there is obviously an inherent risk of an outwardly repentant cheat slipping through their net. Garmin manager Jonathan Vaughters - himself one of the riders who confessed to cheating in the investigation that brought down Lance Armstrong - is no doubt constantly vigilant.

But the biggest danger for Sky, of course, is that they will go through this purging process and still not know for certain whether anyone left behind has not just buried their skeletons even further back in the closet. It takes an impressive kind of courage to admit to something - as Julich and De Jong have done - in the sure knowledge that it will cost you your job. How can Dave Brailsford and his team know that everyone will be so honest? At Garmin they could be, and they would get the chance to redeem themselves.

Having a zero tolerance stance on doping makes great headlines when it is announced, but the reality of managing such a system has seen Sky fighting fires when they should be basking in the glory of the greatest year British cycling has ever seen. Let's just hope that by sticking to their guns they will emerge from this mess with their integrity intact, and maybe then we might be able to look back on all this as another positive development in a year of unprecedented success.

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