Actualité du dopage

Brailsford addresses doctor dilemma: we are 100 per cent clean

22/05/2018 - - Ciaran Bradley

In the world of professional cycling, where guilt by association is assumed and a team’s clean image can be compromised by individuals with a murky past, it was a surprising decision by Team Sky to hire a doctor who was at Rabobank during the time Michael Rasmussen was kicked off the 2007 Tour de France and when Thomas Dekker tested positive for EPO.

However, Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford told Cycle Sport that recruiting Dr Geert Leinders, who is not at the Tour de France, did not mean the team was engaged in doping. He also explained the circumstances that led to Team Sky rewriting its policy of recruiting medical staff from outside professional cycling.

Leinders’s role at Rabobank came under scrutiny earlier this year when the team’s former manager Theo De Rooy told a Dutch newspaper, Vokskrant: “Management never encouraged doping. If there was, then it was a deliberate decision of the medical staff. But when it comes to medical care, you must find the line between doping and medical aid. Riders’ health, in the short or long term, is paramount.”

“Does that imply [Leinders] was doping? That’s nothing against him specifically. Call me naive, call me what you want we are not doping and we know we’re not going to dope,” said Brailsford at Sky’s rest day hotel at Quincié-en-Beaujolais.

“I categorically, 100 per cent say that there’s no risk of anything untoward happening in this team since he [Leinders] has been with us. I’ve seen nothing and neither have the full-time medics. I’d put my life on it. He’s done nothing wrong here, but we have a reputational risk.”

When Team Sky was set up, Brailsford said he would not hire anyone who had an association with doping. It was a strong message but given generations of doping abuse in the sport it also appeared to be an idealistic and unrealistic goal.

But Brailsford did decide the team should hire British medical staff who had not worked inside professional cycling before.

However, the harrowing experience at the 2010 Vuelta a Espana led to a rethink of that medical policy.

Txema Gonzalez, one of the team’s carers, contracted a bacterial infection which entered the bloodstream. The toxins damaged his organs and he went into septic shock. The Spaniard, who was 43, died in hospital.

At the same time, the riders were struck with a stomach bug. In heat approaching 40 degrees, some of them were vomiting on the road. For a worrying 12-hour period they thought they had the same virus as Gonzalez. Team Sky’s Dr Steve Peters, the head of the medical operation at the time, confirmed that the bacterial infection that killed Gonzalez was nothing to do with the virus that affected the riders.

When Gonzalez was taken to hospital, Brailsford and another of Team Sky’s doctors, Dr Richard Freeman, flew from Liverpool to Spain. When they landed, Brailsford switched on his phone to the news Gonzalez had died.

“When someone dies on your team and you feel you’re putting riders at risk for all we knew the riders could have had the same thing.

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