Shane Sutton has stepped down as head coach of Team Sky although the Australian will continue to serve a consultation role as a performance advisor and “troubleshooter.”
While a report in the Telegraph suggested that Sutton would also step back from his coaching role at British Cycling, Team Sky’s statement said that he would dovetail his new position with his job as head coach of the British track programme.
“I’m working in a support role alongside Dave as an advisor and a troubleshooter," Sutton said, according to the Team Sky website. "We’ve worked together for a long time and we’ve got a good working relationship. If there is an issue that the team has identified or an area that needs exploring then Dave will be able to bring me in and we can take a look at it.”
Sutton is particularly close to Bradley Wiggins and was a key member of the Briton’s coaching team in 2012 as he rode to victory at the Tour de France, but it is understood that he will no longer work directly with the riders on a daily basis.
“I’m being led by Dave and whatever he wants and whatever I can do to help the performance team then I’ll deliver that for Team Sky,” Sutton said.
Sutton’s change of position brings the number of departures from Sky’s 2012 management team to four. Bobby Julich and Steven De Jongh resigned from the team’s staff in October after they confessed to doping during their riding careers as part of Sky’s new “zero-tolerance” anti-doping policy, unveiled in the wake of the Lance Armstrong affair. Shortly afterwards, Sean Yates announced his retirement, citing health reasons.
Sky also formally parted company with Dr. Geert Leinders at the end of last season. Leinders was previously a team doctor at Rabobank at a time when former manager Theo de Rooy said that the Dutch squad had tolerated doping.
Sky’s announcement of Sutton’s changing role comes on a day when the focus of the cycling media has been turned largely towards events in the United States, where Lance Armstrong’s doping confession was televised on Thursday evening.
Rod Ellingworth, who has served as race coach at Team Sky since its inception in 2010, now takes up the role of performance manager, with responsibility for overseeing the work of the team’s coaches and sports directors.
“It’s a post that involves overseeing the race programmes, training camps and external commitments to ensure we produce the best possible performances on the road,” he said. “At the same time, I’ll still retain the group of riders I coach on a day-to-day basis and I’ll be on the road throughout the season working closely with the rest of the performance team to ensure we give our riders the very best chance of success.”
Paul Kimmage has expressed his frustration that Oprah Winfrey missed opportunities to ask Lance Armstrong telling follow-up questions during their televised interview, which was screened on Thursday night.
The journalist and former rider said that he awoke at 4:30am to watch a recording of the interview to find a note from his son attached to the side of the television warning him that he might end up putting his foot through the screen in frustration.
“I started off with low expectations to say the least,” Kimmage told Irish radio station 98FM. “It was enlightening but some parts were very interesting, but it was also incredibly frustrating. As well as she [Winfrey] did – and she did ok – I just felt that at the key moments when she could really have landed a significant blow, she didn’t know where to go with it. That’s where the frustration is for me.”
Kimmage was impressed by Winfrey’s firm opening line of questioning, which saw Armstrong confess to doping in a series of yes or no answers, but felt that she failed to pursue certain avenues later on. “That was a fantastic start but just when you thought it was going fantastically well, she let it get away from her,” he said, pointing to Armstrong’s reiteration of the old lie that he never failed a doping test. “She didn’t remind him of his contradictions. Had Oprah been on her game, she would have said ‘you did fail a test in 1999.’”
The Irishman was not surprised by the decidedly incomplete nature of Armstrong’s confession, his continued denial of doping after his comeback in 2009 and his refusal to implicate others involved in the US Postal doping system. “He said as little as he needed to do. He would have been very conscious of where he stood legally right through the interview.”
There had been speculation prior to the interview that Armstrong would implicate the UCI in covering up his doping, but instead he denied that his donation to their anti-doping programme had constituted a bribe. “When he was asked about the donation, he did say there were shady dealings with the UCI. The question is what were the shady dealings? She didn’t ask it,” Kimmage said.
“Overall if you’re Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen, you’re looking at this rubbing your hands together because he hasn’t said anything about the donation, he’s said, ‘The testing evolved later and this is why I wasn’t caught, nothing to do with the UCI.’ If you’re Pat McQuaid and Hein Verbruggen watching this you’re think Hallelujah, all my Christmases have come together here.”
Kimmage was also asked to react to Bradley Wiggins’ comments on the Armstrong case earlier in the week, in which he said the confession would be a “sad day” for cycling and name-checked Kimmage as being consumed by the story.
“Why he chooses to personalise it and bring me into it and explain me as bitter and consumed by him and his team is a nonsense, an absolute nonsense,” Kimmage said. “I was talking about this subject 22 years ago.
“What Bradley Wiggins needs to understand is that it is the last chance saloon [for cycling] and that with the great rewards he is now getting as Tour de France champion comes a great responsibility, a responsibility to this sport and he needs to be reminded of that. He’s going to be reminded of it by me and he should be reminded of it by Dave Brailsford and the team he’s riding for now. If they started reminding Bradley Wiggins of his responsibility, we’d all be in a better place today.”
"It was pretty much what I expected: a lot of nothing"
In a country that by now almost gleefully repeats the cycle of building public figures into near mythic proportions only to watch them inevitably and spectacularly fall from grace later, living rooms and brew pubs across the US filled up Thursday night as sports fans and curious observers waited to watch Lance Armstrong on the Oprah Winfrey Network to admit doping throughout his now-disgraced career.
At the Rapha North America headquarters in Portland, Oregon, a boisterous group of industry insiders, amateur racers and cycling super fans gathered at an open-house showing of the made-for-TV confession.
“I think we just thought this was a public spectacle,” said Rapha North America General Manager Slate Olsen, who previously collaborated with Armstrong on cycling projects when Olsen worked at Oregon-based Nike. “This was the biggest event that's happened – certainly in a decade – since maybe Festina but on a larger scale, and especially in Portland, where he's been involved through Nike and everything like that. We just thought it would be a great thing for people who were informed about the sport or fans of the sport to come together and watch it together. And it was a chance to have a party, which we're always looking for.”
The crowd was transfixed as Winfrey peppered the former cyclist with a staccato opening round of yes or no questions in which he admitted using EPO and/or blood transfusions through all seven of his Tour de France wins. Armstrong's admission that he hadn't read former teammate Tyler Hamilton's recent book ignited a round of laughter that broke the silence. By the time it was over, about 75 minutes later, the interview drew mixed reviews from the people Cyclingnews spoke with, although most agreed there was very little new information and certainly no earth-shattering revelations.
“I'm not surprised by anything,” Olsen said after hearing Armstrong's confession. “I guess I'm kind of jaded because I just always figured this was the case. But in a way I am surprised that he's done this and curious as to why, ultimately. He fought this fight pretty good and held the line, but maybe at some point you just see the rope ends and you have two options, and this was one of them.”
David Mackintosh, a cycling fan and Masters racer from Hood River, stopped by the Portland event after reading about it on the internet. But he wasn't impressed with what he saw on the TV screens.
“I was disappointed,” he said. “It was interesting, but I'm really not taking anything away from it, I have to say. Pretty empty. I thought Oprah asked some pretty good questions, but she backed off when it was clear he wasn't gonna really give anything away. I've read a lot about the story, and there definitely wasn't anything I hadn't heard before.”
Sharon Sandoval, a cycling fan from Portland who left after the first couple commercial breaks, also expressed disappointment and appeared skeptical about the motivations behind Armstrong's confession.
“It was pretty much what I expected: a lot of nothing,” she said. “A lot of lack of emotion. I think the tears will come on a little bit later. He has to get that target audience. That's basically what I took from it.”
Despite the lack of any breaking news Thursday night, some of the people watching the confession said there was value in hearing and seeing Armstrong admit what many had suspected for so long.
“There was nothing new, but it was good to hear it from Lance,” said Dave Roth, who spent much the evening pouring beers for the thirsty crowd. “It was good to hear him say what we all knew. The comments about people he's maligned in the past, people's he's said things about or sued, it was good to hear him say, 'Yeah, I shouldn't have done that.'”
Brad Ross, a local cyclo-cross promoter and race director of the Cascade Cycling Classic – the 1988 version of which is now Lance Armstrong's last official cycling win – said Armstrong was actually more forthcoming than he thought the former US Postal team leader would be.
“It's not that I like him any more than I ever did,” Ross said. “But he was much more honest than I thought he'd be, for sure.”
Oprah under fire
Reviews about Winfrey's performance as grand inquisitor also drew mixed reviews, with some people telling Cyclingnews Winfrey did a good job holding Armstrong's feet to the fire, while others said she let him off the hook far too easily.
“Oprah is not part of this industry and has not followed this at all,” Ross said. “But she's obviously done her homework, because she asked some pretty pointed questions that there was no good way for him to answer.”
Longtime industry veteran and Rapha North America Communications Director Chris Distefano said he had hoped for more from Winfrey.
“I saw what I believed to be a sort of genuine expression of remorse, but I don't think Oprah was as hard-hitting as maybe she could have been,” he said. “I think it would take someone who really understands the sport to say, 'This and this, plus and this,' or maybe the questions in the Sunday Times. What about the specifics and what appeals to the absolute elite in the cycling world who really are concerned about details?”
Mackintosh, the fan from Hood River, said he would liked to have seen Winfrey push Armstrong harder on admitting he lied in the SCA lawsuit about what the Andreu heard when a doctor asked their then-cancer-ridden friend if he had used PEDs.
“There were a lot of things they didn't talk about at all, like crushing Greg LeMond's bike company and a lot of those other bad deals,” Mackintosh said. “He implied the UCI was not at all in cahoots with him. He definitely wasn't throwing anyone under the bus. There are some things there that we really still don't know. He wasn't making any revelations that would confirm what a lot of people suspect.”
The confession Part II
Most of the people Cyclingnews spoke with said they were hoping for a lot more to come out during the interview's second half, which is scheduled for Friday.
“I want to really know the details,” Anderson said. “That would be great. It'll be interesting to see if he gets a little more in depth.”
Roth said he wants to hear Armstrong address the rumors about alleged collusion with the UCI and USA Cycling.
“I haven't been following all of them, but the rumors are he has dirt on other people, and I would assume that's what part two will be about,” Roth said. “Part one was, OK, here's everything Lance did and he's sorry for that, now part two is who are the bigger fish. There's always a bigger fish. There's always someone else you can blame, and I'm assuming part two is that kind of thing.”
None of the people Cyclingnews spoke with said Armstrong's appearance on Oprah's show had much effect on their opinion of the former cycling superstar who has fallen so far so fast. But one thing was obvious as the overflow crowd spilled out into the night: Lance Armstrong still draws a crowd.
“The biggest revelation for me was how many people showed up tonight,” Distefano said. “I cannot believe how many people showed up. I guess the explanation is, despite all the people who say Lance isn't important, this many people showing up shows just how important he was to that time period, to the sport's growth, and how much maybe people wanted him to be that important.”
Roth, the bartender, said the number of people that came through the doors, many of them unfamiliar, caught the hosts off guard.
“We thought a few people would show up – our fiends, our buddies,” Roth said. “And then the local news picked it up and started talking about it, and a couple news stations came by today to do interviews. Once the doors opened and people started flowing in, it was like, oh my goodness, who are all these people. And I've seen on Instagram some other parties over on the East Coast like this – just packed.”
Olson, the Rapha host who said he partied with Armstrong on a Valentine's Day back when they collaborated for Nike, summed up the evening succinctly.
“I think you could probably put a week's worth of interviews up and I'd watch it for seven days straight if you let me,” he said. “As someone just said, 'Everyone loves a public lynching.'”
Tour de France director gives more details on 2014 Tour stages
Christian Prudhomme has revealed that Bradley Wiggins’ 2012 Tour de France victory and the success of the cycling events at the London Olympics played a decisive role in persuading him and his organising team to return to Britain “as soon as possible.”
Speaking at the presentation of the opening stages of the 2014 Tour de France in Leeds, Prudhomme said: “The Grand Départ in London in 2007 was spectacular. We were wondering then how long it would be before we came back to Britain. Would it be 10 years? Twelve perhaps? But this amazing British summer for cycling convinced us to come back sooner, if not as soon as possible.”
Prudhomme also admitted it had been easy to be convinced by Yorkshire’s bid to host the 2014 Grand Départ. He offered praise to the team behind the Yorkshire bid, describing Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Gary Verity as “an exceptional asset”, and adding: “I knew of Yorkshire, but I hadn’t realised it was so gorgeous till I spent a few days here in the spring.”
Prudhomme also pointed out that the Tour can now look forward to island starts for its next two editions. “In 2013 the Tour will have its most southerly Grand Départ in Corsica, while in 2014 it will have its most northerly in Yorkshire,” he said.
Yorkshire’s successful bid to host the Tour is reported to have cost £10 million or more, but Gary Verity insisted that bringing the Tour to the county will boost Yorkshire in many ways. “One of the reasons we bid for the Tour was to raise the profile of Yorkshire significantly on the international stage. We’re insistent on putting Yorkshire on the international cycling map and today is the start of a long and happy relationship with ASO. We will show everyone why Yorkshire is the right choice both for cycling and for the Tour,” said Verity.
“We are also convinced the Tour’s visit will have a huge economic impact. Two million people came out to see the Olympic torch when it passed through Yorkshire and we’re expecting in the region of three million to line the route of the Tour stages.”
He continued by saying that he hopes that the Tour’s influence will be felt across Yorkshire for a decade beyond 2014. “Legacy is very important to us. We want Yorkshire to be the top cycling region in the country. We have plans to give every child in Yorkshire access to a bike and provide them with cycling training, and we will also introduce look a network for cycle hire,” he explained.
Described by Leeds City Council leader Keith Wakefield “as one of the wisest men in France”, Prudhomme then went on to offer more detail about the opening stages of the 2014 race. “The first stage will be fairly flat. There will be two climbs that count for the King of the Mountains jersey. The final 400m will be straight into the finish and slightly uphill. A certain sprinter might want to please his mother who lives in Harrogate,” he said, referring to Mark Cavendish.
The second stage between York and Sheffield will be significantly tougher. “After a flat start there will be eight climbs on this stage. There will be 1400m of climbing in the last 60km of the stage. The riders will have to tackle the most famous climb in Britain, Holme Moss, which averages 7% for 4.8km. The following climbs are short but irregular. The last climb will be no more than 5km before the finish,” he said.
In a TV message, mayor of London Boris Johnson outlined plans for the finale of the third stage between Cambridge and the capital. “It is going to come into London from the Olympic Park and go around all those iconic sights – Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, the Houses of Parliament, you name it. I think it’s going to be wonderfully exciting. I’m looking forward to it and I think it’s going to be a fantastic festival of sport,” said Johnson, who confirmed that the stage will end on The Mall, exactly where the finish of the Olympic road race events was located.
The UCI had reacted to both WADA and USADA’s refusal to join the study, stating, “WADA had proposed late last year that the UCI agree an amnesty for those coming forward to give evidence before the Commission. UCI has explained to WADA that any amnesty from UCI would have limited effect as the IOC, national anti-doping authorities, sponsors and indeed criminal authorities could, as we have seen in the Lance Armstrong case, pursue actions against athletes admitting to doping.”
The UCI press release detailed a WADA amnesty proposal, stating, “WADA’s proposal was that anyone who came forward with information would be given a complete amnesty, with no period of ineligibility and no loss of results, and, incredibly, would be given psychological support to be financed by the UCI.”
“It is disappointing that after UCI’s concerns were raised with WADA, rather than addressing them, they have indicated that they will pull out altogether.”
Fahey replied on Thursday, stating that his agency was not the one that initially made the amnesty proposal, USADA was, and said the UCI never consulted WADA regarding the concept.
“WADA was never approached by the UCI to discuss how it could be achieved and only recently received a letter from the UCI counsel indicating that the UCI would not consider it for this Commission, and would only consider taking part in such a process if it was to involve all endurance sport.
“WADA has always been ready and available to discuss any program. WADA is on record stating this as far back as October 2012. … “Had the UCI approached WADA to discuss such an amnesty then it would have been advised that such a process would be possible to implement with the approval of WADA’s Foundation Board. The President of the UCI was present in his capacity as a then member of the WADA Foundation Board at its meeting in November 2012 and did not raise the issue.”
“The shortcomings of the Vrijman Report were obvious at the time, and more so today,” Fahey said. “This new Commission had a chance not to repeat that mistake but regrettably is not being permitted to do so.”
The UCI stated that it relied on WADA’s and USADA’s testing, and that science failed to uncover any evidence of doping by Armstrong and his teammates. “There is no dispute, therefore, that we are talking about doping violations that were difficult, if not impossible, to detect on the basis of the existing science and the limited methods at the disposal of anti-doping authorities,” the UCI stated.
Fahey replied, “It has become typical of the UCI to point fingers at others when yet another doping controversy hits the sport of cycling. WADA has recognized for some years the limits of science, but science is not the only element in an effective anti-doping program.
“The way controls are undertaken by the responsible anti-doping organization (in this situation the UCI), the alleged insider information provided in this sport to the cyclists, the suggestion of warnings being given to cyclists before the testers arrive, and many other matters raised by the USADA report, and by others, can clearly reduce the effectiveness of a testing program and lead to negative test results.”
Full statements by the UCI and WADA are available.
The day many thought would never happen finally came to fruition Thursday evening when Lance Armstrong admitted to doping in a televised interview conducted by Oprah Winfrey. Armstrong had already been stripped of his seven Tour de France titles and banned for life based on a mountain of evidence contained in the US Anti-Doping Agency's reasoned decision, released last October, but the Texan had opted to not speak with USADA and until his interview with Winfrey had made no public statement regarding his spectacular descent from world sporting icon to utter ruin.
But while Armstrong quickly confessed to utilising doping methods such as EPO, blood transfusions, human growth hormones and testosterone during each of his seven Tour de France victories, full disclosure and complete transparency regarding what USADA dubbed "the most sophisticated, professionalized and successful doping program that sport has ever seen" was not entirely forthcoming.
Following the first of two successive evenings of Oprah Winfrey interviewing Lance Armstrong, three UK-based editors within Future Publishing's family of cycling media, Jamie Wilkons (Procycling deputy editor), Paul Robson (Cyclingnews HD editor) and Mark Robinson (CyclingPlus deputy editor) provide analysis of Armstrong's 90-minute interview with Winfrey, highlighting the importance of both what was said and not said during this initial confirmation of his lengthy doping regimen.
“Since the USADA report, I could well imagine that things would turn out badly for him. My disappointment was already enormous at the time and it’s even more so now,” Merckx told Le Soir. “He has admitted and that’s hard to hear. I was quite close to him: he often looked me right in the eyes when we discussed doping, and of course it was a big ‘no'."
Merckx reserved particular anger for Armstrong’s comment that it would have been impossible to win the Tour de France without doping, opining that it cast a pall over Armstrong’s contemporaries and Tour winners over the past 110 years.
“It’s a scandal for the other riders, the other winners, to affirm that. It’s so easy and hypocritical,” Merckx said. “The Armstrong era was hard for cycling, it came after the Festina Affair, there was EPO etc. but that’s no reason to say that you can’t win the Tour without doping.
“I just hope that the current crop of riders will not be too disillusioned by this news because it’s they who have seen their jobs put under permanent suspicion. It’s not simple but it’s them I’m thinking of first.”
While Armstrong offered a limited confession to doping, he shed little light on the doping programme in place at his US Postal team. He did, however, allude to the role of Dr. Michele Ferrari, even though he insisted that the Italian was a “good man.” In 2004, Ferrari said that he had been introduced to Armstrong by Merckx himself in late 1995.
Former Lance Armstrong teammate Robbie McEwen has said that he's confident that current anti-doping measures leave him confident that violations the likes of which the American got away with could never be repeated.
Orica GreenEdge convened a press conference in Adelaide on Friday in the wake of the Armstrong interview with Oprah Winfrey with McEwen, Stuart O'Grady and Simon Gerrans fronting the media.
McEwen was on the front line with Armstrong as a teammate for what would be his final race of his career, the Tour Down Under in 2011.
"I think it's changed everyone's opinion of him," the now Orica GreenEdge sprint coach explained. "Everybody wanted to believe the fairytale, the hero, the whole story so I don't think there's a person in the world that even remotely follows cycling that hasn't changed their opinion of what we thought Lance was."
O'Grady meanwhile like McEwen rode multiple Tours de France throughout the Armstrong era and said that the overwhelming sense following today's confession was that of relief.
"In a way I'm glad he's come out and confessed," said O'Grady. "It's been an on-going saga and as much as it's been a shock to the cycling world, it's cycling that's suffered... we can look to the future and hopefully something good can come out of this.
"There was so much mounting evidence. You can't hide for that long. He had to come out of his closet and confess and as strange as it is to hear it, it's relieving in the way that he's finally done it."
Asked if he believed that there were more riders that were doping throughout the 90s and early 2000s, O'Grady was reluctant to open up on any suspicions that he may have.
"Obviously all the people that were in his team at the time weren't doing too bad either," he explained. "I think he used, abused and manipulated all the people around him but I can't answer those questions."