Opinion: Brailsford must resign for Team Sky to survive

Jeremy Whittle sees Select Committee report as a decision point

Once feted as the architect of the greatest revolution in British sporting history, Dave Brailsford's standing, following the publication of the House of Commons select committee's anti-doping report, is now at an all-time low, writes Jeremy Whittle.

The sting, for Team Sky and Dave Brailsford, is in the tail, in paragraphs 109 and 110 of the House of Commons Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee report into Combatting Doping Within Sport.

"Team Sky's statements that coaches and team managers are largely unaware of the methods used by the medical staff to prepare pro-cyclists for major races seem incredible, and inconsistent with their original aim of 'winning clean,' and maintaining the highest ethical standards within their sport," the report says.

"…Brailsford must take responsibility for these failures, the regime under which Team Sky riders trained and competed and the damaging scepticism about the legitimacy of his team's performance and accomplishments."

Then comes paragraph 110: "…contrary to the testimony of David Brailsford in front of the Committee, we believe that drugs were being used by Team Sky, within the WADA rules, to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need."

It's a measure of how far Dave Brailsford's star has fallen that, after almost two years of evidence, few within the British sporting establishment will be that shocked by the report's wording. There are likely to be significant repercussions to these findings, which can be expected to create aftershocks for some time.

Perhaps, given Brailsford's lofty ambitions of combining zero tolerance, transparency and accountability with outrageous levels of success in a sport that has long been riven with chicanery and unethical practices, it was always inevitable that a fall would come.

But Brailsford's descent has been both rapid and public and never more so than when he appeared before the DCMS select committee in late 2016. Since that day, he has often been a virtual recluse from the media, and, given the growing criticism of his handling of the Froome crisis by both the UCI and rival teams, at times appeared to have become a dragging anchor to his team.

Now, Sky has to decide, with its team principal further embarrassed and star rider, Chris Froome, under investigation and facing a possible sanction, if its sponsorship is still sustainable.

Read more on this story

Once, Sky's team's principal led by example. Now, lost in a mire of meaningless soundbites, contradictory evidence and empty promises, Brailsford no longer commands the authority that once made him so celebrated.

Initially, as a new British audience was seduced by the beauty, drama and romance of European road racing, and by Team Sky's brash and innovative marketing, Brailsford had a massive level of public support.

That goodwill was fuelled too by the post-Armstrong weariness, and by the wave of enthusiasm directed towards a fresh and exciting project that promised to regenerate cycling's credibility.

But, either through naiveté, or as the committee's report suggests, by design, there were too many poor decisions, too many crippling mistakes, too many inexplicable problems.

"The system at Team Sky was either not as robust as David Brailsford states," the DCMS report says, "or certain information was deliberately not recorded in line with the stated policy of the team."

Now, cross-party members of the British parliament have labeled him responsible for "inexcusable and unprofessional" failures. It's a damning conclusion from a select committee of the House of Commons, who also call, in no uncertain terms, on the bodies identified in the report to pay "serious attention to our recommendations."

That leaves Brailsford more isolated than he has ever been. Having spoken so volubly and so often of his propriety and credibility, his position is now untenable and he must resign. Then, at least, the team he created may have a fighting chance of surviving.

Related Articles

Back to top