Dave Brailsford has hit back about criticism of Team Sky's dominant race tactics and innuendo about why the team is so strong in stage races, using the success of the Great Britain team as guarantee of his integrity.
The British team manager accepted that it is right to ask Mathew Hayman about his time at the Rabobank team alongside Michael Rasmussen and that questions about why the team hired Dr. Geert Leinders despite his history with Rabobank are valid. But he reacted angrily to growing accusations, insinuations and innuendo, especially on the internet and social media, about his integrity and the success of Team Sky.
"The Leinders question is legitimate and when we do things there are legitimate questions that should be asked. We want them to be asked and we're more than happy to answer them. But I don’t like innuendo. That's unfair," he told Cyclingnews and two other journalists while at Tirreno-Adriatico, following Chris Froome and Team Sky.
"There are plenty of journalists who like to think that were at it. But when you read some of the things that are written on the internet, the accusations and the innuendo, they're incorrect."
"If you acted on the basis of that, it'd be totally unjust. So I'm not going to do the same to someone else. You've got to work with evidence and facts. That's the way the world works. I'd be out of a job for sure if I didn’t."
Brailsford accepts that he made a mistake by hiring Dr. Leinders, but refutes the idea that the Belgian doctor's presence in the team was somehow proof that doping goes on at Team Sky. Brailsford claimed that long success with the Great Britain team at the Olympics is a guarantee of his integrity.
"Of course it was a mistake. Absolutely. But hiring one doctor, who worked for 40 days, does that means we're doping now, are we? How does that work?" he said, using a stream of questions to give his answer.
"If you’re a cheat, you're a cheat, you're not half a cheat. You wouldn't say, 'I'll cheat here but I'm not going to cheat over there; I'll cheat on a Monday but not on a Tuesday.'
"So we were doping in the Olympics too? If I'm a doper, if I'm a liar, I'm a liar in my personality through and through. So why didn't I dope the Olympic team for the last 15 years? Have I just decided I'm going to do it with this team? I'm not going to do it over there but I'll cheat here? Full gas. But we've dominated the Olympic games for 15 years. Explain that to me. We didn’t just win at the Olympic games, we dominated them, we smashed it out of the park. More than anyone else has ever done. That level of performance is monumental."
"If I'm a liar and a cheat and if my ethics and morals are all about cheating, if that's what we're doing here, lying to the world and cheating, then surely I'll be doing it in other places in my life. Not just parts."
Hayman's wrong answer
Last week Team Sky's Mathew Hayman refused to answer questions from Cyclingnews about his time at the Rabobank team and specifically during the 2003 Vuelta a España, when Michael Rasmussen was on the team. Rasmussen recently revealed the full extent of the doping he used during his career, revealing he hid doping on the Rabobank team bus in 2003.
Rasmussen is litigating for wrongful termination from the Rabobank team after it sacked him in 2007 over whereabouts violations before the Tour de France. The 5.6 million Euro case hinges on him proving that the Rabobank team knew he was purposefully eluding the anti-doping authorities in order to dope as preparation for the Tour de France.
Brailsford admitted that Hayman's refusal to comment was the wrong reaction.
"I think it was a legitimate question to ask, there's no harm in asking a question," he said.
"I'm not defending Mat's reaction but he was up there at altitude in Tenerife. There's no internet at the top of the mountain, they don’t know what's going on. He wasn't aware of the Rasmussen stuff and so the phone call was out of the blue."
"Having said that, I think it was immediate reaction but I think Mat and everyone else realises that 'no comment' in this day and age is a bit of a challenge."
Brailsford suggested that Hayman will talk about his time at Rabobank to Sunday Times journalist David Walsh, who is currently embedded with Team Sky at Teide. He insisted that Team Sky has done its due diligence and investigated riders' pasts. However he was vague when asked if there was a chance some riders may have held back from telling the whole truth to keep their place on the team.
"They all know that when they signed the declaration they said they had no active involvement in doping, knowing full well that if any evidence came out that incriminated them, we'd be back at the table saying "Hang on a minute, lets double check this.' I think that it's only right that we sit down and ask the riders about specific information."
The Team Sky way
Team Sky has been criticised for the often clinical, finely calculated way it rides and win many of the sport's biggest stage races. The dominant way they controlled the Tour de France and set up Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome quickly lead somewhat malicious comparisons to Lance Armstrong's powerful US Postal Service team.
Again Brailsford throws back any criticism and insinuation.
"If people want the entertainment value of riders attacking each other, stopping, attacking each other again and again, then go back to 'old cycling', which will give you the capability to do that," he said.
"If you want clean sport and clean cycling, then it's going to be different. You can't have it both ways. There's an element of reality about what were doing."
"People accuse us of being robotic and being like a machine but hold on a second; that's unfair on Richie Porte. He actually rode a brilliant race to win Paris-Nice. He was the best guy in the race thanks to the work he put in during training and the way he rode. That’s fantastic, that's what cycling is about."
"There's a difference between attacking for attack's sake and making meaningful attacks. What we saw in Paris-Nice were lots of attacks but only one meaningful, thought-out attack, which was Richie's attack."
Both Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador suggested Team Sky were using their power metre data to control their racing effort during Saturday's key mountain stage to Prati di Tivo at Tirreno-Adriatico. Sergio Henao and Rigoberto Uran set a steady but infernal pace on the climb before Froome made one late attack to pass his rivals and win the stage.
The majority of riders now use power metres in competition, not just Team Sky. However Nibali went as far as suggesting they should be banned during races.
"Here (at Tirreno-Adriatico) people said we were riding to numbers but they should do their homework before saying things like that. The guys rode with compact chain sets on Sunday and Monday and so didn’t have SRM's on their bikes," Brailsford pointed out.
"It's about riding to a plan. If you got to pull back a few seconds and gain time on your rivals before the time trial, what do you do? On Monday (before the stage to Chieti) we thought, why not gamble a bit, take the race by the scruff of the neck and ride as hard as we can to see what happens. That's racing as far as I can see."