I am regularly told not to focus on the negatives with these Watercooler pieces and rather highlight positives that reflect the positive emotion, power and benefits of sport. As much as I agree with the notion, it’s hard to move past the relentless tales of bollocks that the business of sport tends to throw up. I say business because one tends to find that behind most contentious issues lies money. This one is no different.
In case you didn’t know, Team Sky is the British cycling team that took out the Tour de France titles in 2012 and 2013 with Bradley Wiggins (now Sir Bradley) and Chris Froome. The fundamental values that support Team Sky are around anti doping. You can understand how we support this as these values reflect ours at SKINS as well.
The problem however stems from the insistence by Sky of a ‘zero tolerance policy’ towards all people involved with the team, including management. Their stated objective is to have no-one part of their journey that has at any stage been involved in any way with doping.
Whilst this stance is admirable, it’s unrealistic and virtually impossible to run a cycling team today and be compliant. You see, doping was so prevalent in cycling during the 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s that there are so few riders from that era who would comply. This is an unworkable policy for Sky, let alone if introduced across all teams.
However the biggest issue I have is, whilst it may have started as a genuine desire to be the clean team, it’s now transcended into a publicity stunt and I’m today calling out Sky for this very hypocrisy.
One week ago, Nick Harris from the Mail on Sunday (UK newspaper) wrote a piece revealing French court documents from a criminal case in 2001 included expert testimony that Sky’s director sportif, Servais Knaven, had taken EPO at the 1998 Tour de France. You can read the article here – http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-2984471/Sky-face-troubling-questions-coach-court-documents-leave-Brailsford-s-zero-tolerance-policy-pressure.html
If Sky genuinely stood behind their policy and their desire to enforce their policy they would have sent someone to the same courts in Reims to review the material that Harris and his colleague worked through (8 boxes comprising 10,000 documents). Instead of this however they chose to only look at a very limited amount of pages, handfuls at most, and refute the allegations as not being ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. Convenient.
Today Harris published the next installment which included 7 questions that Sky have directly refused to answer. He went to the trouble of engaging Australian Robin Parisotto who invented the first EPO tests, and they’ve named him as an expert who validates the science behind the allegations. Sky refuses to name the ‘experts’ who they say refute these court-proven allegations. This doesn’t sound like the actions of those who genuinely want the truth; it sounds like a PR position. The latest story is here http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/sport/othersports/article-2995151/New-expert-opinion-Servais-Knaven-s-0-7-EPO-level-Team-Sky-won-t-accept-known-causes-reading-damaged-kidneys-taking-EPO.html
For Sky to manage this in such an incompetent, mealy-mouthed manner, amazes and disappoints me. These guys are good. They appear to have a genuine desire to rid cycling of doping and if they’re serious they’ll come out and acknowledge what we all know went on and reflect that it’s almost impossible to continue the zero tolerance bollocks whilst employing those who competed during the most toxic of days.
This is not about seeking to have Knaven sacked; frankly it’s the reverse. Knaven should feel comfortable enough to tell the truth to his employers about his past experiences and do so comfortable in the fact that he will NOT be fired.
This last week saw the publication of the report by CIRC into a 13 month investigation into issues around doping and corruption in cycling and if Sky were as smart as I think they are, they’d use this opportunity to reframe their policies. Team Sky is James Murdoch’s baby and even he surely can understand what’s reality and signoff on reframed policies?
Zero tolerance for doping in cycling is eminently achievable and admirable for today and for the future. Any thoughts of applying it to the past is laughable or worse; treating the public like idiots.
C’mon Sky. Don’t think we’re all that dumb.