Team Sky's David Brailsford has outlined his approach to the issue of drugs in the professional peloton as his team heads towards its debut season. In an interview with Paul Kimmage for British newspaper The Times, Brailsford stated his belief that Sky can make good on its plan to deliver a clean British rider to overall victory in the Tour de France within five years.
Brailsford discussed with Kimmage his memories of David Millar's arrest by French police in Biarritz in 2004 that led to the Briton's admission of the use of EPO. Brailsford had been with Millar at the time and was himself interrogated by the French police. He remained a supporter of Millar throughout his two-year suspension and subsequently successful return to the sport.
An outspoken critic of doping within professional cycling Kimmage questioned Brailsford's reasons for developing the Team Sky project given his direct experience of doping within the sport.
"All I can say is ... if there is any doubt or suspicion [of doping] on our team, I’ll expose it. And if I get to the point where I think it can’t be done, I’m walking away," said Brailsford.
"You ask me why I am doing this. I’m doing it for the likes of Brad Wiggins, because Brad in my mind is clean. I don’t think Brad Wiggins dopes — I could be horribly wrong but I don’t think I am — and that proves to me that nowadays — and maybe not before, but nowadays — you can run in the top four in the Tour without doping. And that’s what makes me think it’s worth doing."
Brailsford's approach to the management of the Team Sky project has mirrored his guidance of the British track team to a position as one of the top nations in the fixed-gear discipline. Riders, mechanics, soigneurs and management selected for Team Sky have all been exposed to a thorough recruitment process; a unique approach within the context of road cycling's relatively small network of teams and staff.
Kimmage pressed Brailsford to defend his faith in the Team Sky project by raising a statistic that says 85 percent of Tour de France winners since 1967 have been implicated in doping. Brailsford said that despite the risks, Team Sky is worthy of the devotion he has shown it so far.
"Well, you’ve got to believe in something, otherwise what’s the point? Let’s all pack up and go home. How far was Brad from being on the podium in last year’s Tour ? Not far. Can he improve on that? Who knows? But he certainly has the ability to and, given the right conditions, it could be done.
"And if it could be done, somebody should try. ... Everybody thinks it’s ridiculous but being the number one-ranked nation [on the track] when we started in 1998 seemed just as ridiculous."
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