Blanco Pro Cycling Team has denied Dutch media reports that a former military commando is intimidating its rider and interrogating them in the team's internal anti-doping investigation. Team manager Richard Plugge said that while Eelco Wisman is participating in staff interviews, he is there in the role of a mental coach and independent observer.
“We have a method like Team Sky, asking all people like Sky did about their past,” Plugge told Cyclingnews Thursday morning. “We have one third-party person who is sitting in the same room and questioning, he is there to be an independent individual who can help me or the other party on the other side of the table as well. It can be emotional.”
Wisman “can work for both of us as an independent witness as to what was said from both sides,” in case questions arise later.
Plugge also denied reports that riders felt “intimidated” by Wisman. “The guys I spoke with said it was nothing intimidating at all, that they had to show their questionnaires and give their answers, then had a nice chit-chat as to how they are dealing with it.”
The Dutch newspaer De Telegraaf had quoted an anonymous rider as saying, “His presence is intimidating. He observes and asks questions. Some interviews lasted more than an hour. It feels like we are treated like criminals."
“We hired him because he is a mental coach, and independent from me, the team, the riders, the sport, everyone,” Plugge told Cyclingnews.
As to him being an ex-commando, “yes, he was, maybe 20 years ago he was a commando. But after that, he was a sports instructor for the commandos. The funny thing is that after that story appeared, a lot of commandos called us to say, 'he was not a real commando, he was just a sports instructor to the commandos!'”
The three Dtuch WorldTour teams have all asked all employees and riders to submit a signed statement and questionnaire, detailing whether they took part in or witnessed doping between the years 1993 and 2008. Those who admit to doping during that period will be subject to a six-month ban, under an agreement with the Dutch Anti-Doping Authority and the Dutch cycling federation. The deadline is April 1.