Orica-GreenEdge's Stuart O'Grady (left) and sports director Matt White before the start of the Down Under Classic in Adelaide.
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Vance not certain if team will follow Sky's zero tolerance policy
Nicki Vance, chosen to lead the Orica-GreenEdge external review into the team's policies, procedures as well as riders and staff, believes that it will take between six and eight months to reach a conclusion.
Vance, who has been at the forefront of the anti-doping fight since working with the Australian Sports Drug Agency (now the Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority) in the late 1980s and who now works as a consultant in the field, finalised her agreement with the team on Tuesday when she arrived in Europe from her native Australia.
Speaking to Cyclingnews from Germany following Orica-GreenEdge's announcement of the review, Vance said she was excited to be playing a pro-active role in positive change for the sport.
"I've been involved in this game now for 23 years and cycling was the original sport we focussed on back in the early '90s," Vance said. "So I've had a lot to do with cycling over the years – both collecting samples myself and lobbying for change with the UCI.
"The last few months I've been following it quite closely, just through my own interest and reading Tyler Hamilton's book and all sorts of things. I'm quite excited about the opportunity to work with them because it's been a long time coming. The Lance Armstrong case has blown it all open.
"I think GreenEdge has now got the opportunity to lead the way and I'm delighted to be part of it."
While the recent revelations that have been uncovered throughout the USADA investigation into Lance Armstrong and his associates have not come as a shock to Vance, she did admit to being astounded by the sophistication of the doping programs and also the fact that it was able to continue for so long.
"It's difficult to imagine that the UCI for a start hasn't done more," said Vance. "I think in more recent years the UCI has done a lot more. The Lance Armstrong situation has been in the past and it's important to acknowledge that things aren't totally correct yet and I think we have to go through a bit of that heartache to come out the other end in a much stronger way."
From the perspective of Orica-GreenEdge, part of that heartache has been dismissing Matt White as sports director. It followed White's sacking from his role as men's professional road co-ordinator with Cycling Australia after he confessed to being involved in doping practices throughout his career, which included two separate stints with Armstrong and his teams, US Postal and Discovery.
Vance did not play a role in the team's decision to remove White. Thursday's press release which announced the external review, along the White's sacking, explained that conversations with team management had left them with no other option. The team had previously indicated that it would wait for the results of the ASADA investigation. Whether such an action now means that Orica-GreenEdge could be following in the footsteps of Team Sky, which has a zero tolerance policy within the team for anyone who has been involved in doping in their careers is not clear, said Vance.
"As we commence this review there's not necessarily a policy that's been decided at this point in time," she clarified.
Vance would not speak specifically regarding the case of White or any other possible casualties of her review, but she does hold a personal view that a doping past should not result in an athlete being shunned from the sport altogether.
"I look at people like David Millar who have come back to the sport and I think his interaction with UK anti-doping and cycling has been valuable," Vance said. "I really don't know enough about the Matt White situation, for instance, to know if it's comparable. This goes across the board, not just cycling. I think that when athletes test positive or are found to use doping practices if they're prepared to be part of the solution I think you would welcome that."
The 'Vance Review' will begin over the next few weeks with the team's policies and procedures. In December, Vance and Orica-GreenEdge general manager Shayne Bannan will then attend the UCI teams meeting before meeting with some of the outfit's European-based athletes. Vance does not believe that the doping culture evident in the '90s still continues but said it's too early to suggest that it doesn't exist in some form.
"From my observation and knowledge of what cycling has done in the 2000s, and I also know this through Anne Gripper who is a good friend and colleague and the work that she did at the UCI for the five years she was there, there's certainly a different attitude," Vance told Cyclingnews. "But at the same time I think that we have to recognise that improvements can be made. I'm hoping that the culture is somewhat different and that the younger riders and GreenEdge themselves have this attitude of wanting to ride clean. It's a bit naive to think that there's no doping in the sport of cycling now."