Kimmage disappointed in Wiggins and Team Sky over transparency
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Kimmage disappointed in Wiggins and Team Sky over transparency

by Shane Stokes at 6:48 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Interviews, Tour de France, Doping
Journalist says team has not shown the openness it promised

Bradley WigginsAnti-doping journalist Paul Kimmage has said that he believes Team Sky has not lived up to the promise it made when the team was founded, namely to be fully transparent and, in doing so, to prove beyond doubt that the Tour de France could be won by a clean team.

Team leader Bradley Wiggins currently holds the Maillot Jaune in the Tour and is a commanding one minute 53 seconds ahead of defending champion Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team). Providing he doesn’t falter in the high mountains, he is on course to become the first ever British winner of the race.

However, although Wiggins has spoken out against doping in the past, most notably in 2007 when his-then Cofidis team left the Tour de France after Cristian Moreni tested positive, Kimmage feels that more recently he and the team have not acted as openly as they said they would. He wants them to be more frank about the issue, and to show greater transparency.

“People ask me how I feel about Wiggins leading the Tour de France – I don’t know, I can’t answer the question. I should be jumping up and down and thrilled for the guys, but I don’t like what I am hearing,” he told VeloNation earlier this week. “When asked about doping, the answers from Wiggins now sound the same as with Armstrong and Floyd.”

Kimmage said he was disappointed with Wiggins’ answers in a press conference three days ago when he was asked about comparisons on Twitter between Sky and Lance Armstrong’s US Postal Service team, which is alleged to have used systematic doping to dominate the Tour de France.

The Briton was scathing in his response about those raising questions on the social media platform. “I say they’re just fucking w*nkers. I cannot be doing with people like that,” said Wiggins, as reported by the Scottish journalist Richard Moore. “It justifies their own bone-idleness because they can’t ever imagine applying themselves to do anything in their lives.

“It’s easy for them to sit under a pseudonym on Twitter and write that sort of shit, rather than get off their arses in their own lives and apply themselves and work hard at something and achieve something. And that’s ultimately it. C**ts.”

Kimmage’s issue with the response is that Wiggins, who was so frank in the past about the doping question, is in a position as leader of the Tour de France where he should expect to have questions about the subject, and should be able to speak equally frankly now.

“I don’t recognise the Wiggins now, compared to the guy I interviewed in 2007 to when he was sent out of the Tour,” he said. “I can’t compare these two guys as their responses are completely the opposite. I don’t understand what has happened. I don’t know how you can lead the Tour de France and not speak out about doping, yet speak out in the past so openly. There’s also a completely about-turn from Wiggins on his response to Armstrong, when compared to his previous stance on anti-doping.

“Why is Marco Pinotti the only cyclist in the professional peloton with that back bone to stand up and address these issues? He’s the only one out of all of them with the courage; nobody else does.”

Transparency more important than winning the Tour:

Prior to Team Sky’s debut in 2010, its principal Dave Brailsford was clear about its mission. He said that the goal was to win the Tour de France clean, with a British rider, within five years. In November 2009 he sat down to a long interview with Kimmage and spoke about the importance of doing things the right way.

"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,” he vowed. “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.”

Nearly three years later, Kimmage feels frustrated by the team and says it has fallen short of the full openness it promised. “The only thing I ever hoped about Sky is that they were transparent. I didn’t care if they won the Tour or not, but that they adhered to the principles that they laid out when they started. They said they’d be completely open and that hasn’t happened. So why should you give them the benefit of the doubt?”

One major concern for Kimmage is the team’s hiring of Geert Leinders towards the end of 2010. Previously with the Rabobank team, he came under a shadow in May when former Rabobank team manager Theo de Rooy admitted that doping was tolerated on the team until 2007, saying that it was a ‘deliberate decision by the medical staff.’ Leinders was the chief doctor at the time and acknowledged that when he was with the team, EPO was being used.

After the Michael Rasmussen affair, the team fired de Rooy and became far more strict about running a clean team. Leinders left Rabobank in July 2009, citing dissatisfaction with the team’s management.

Kimmage is troubled by his appointment. “When the team started, it said it would use doctors from outside cycling. I don’t see what possible reason there can be for hiring this guy.

“Prior to that, Sky had different doctors there. There was no explanation about the change. If all along they said, ‘look, this is where we are at, this is what we are doing, this is why we are doing this,’ then fine. At least get it out there, explain it to us and we’ll make up our own mind then. But for all this covert stuff to be going on, it’s not good enough. It is just an extension of what we have had in the past.”

Asked to clarify what he meant by covert stuff, Kimmage gave several examples of things he said have troubled him, in terms of transparency. “There’s Sean Yates’ position as a directeur sportif at a time when Armstrong and his old team is being investigated; Yates was part of that setup. There’s also Michael Barry’s position on the team. He was named by Floyd [Landis] as using substances in the past.

“Two years ago I phoned Brailsford and told him the team needs to tell Barry to speak honestly about the past, to say that there will be no repercussions if he tells the truth, but I don’t think anything was done. There was also hemming and hawing about hiring [Neil] Stephens as a directeur sportif. All of the core principles that the team was founded on, they found ways to wriggle out of it and do something else.

“The point I am making is, look, I didn’t care if they ever won the Tour de France. What I wanted, what I expected, given where the sport was at, was that they were going to be transparent. Whatever comes after that is a bonus. But that they are transparent and we can believe in them; that’s all cycling fans wants now is a team that you can believe in.”

Embedding with team 'blocked by Wiggins':

A former pro who was one of the first to shake the omerta in the sport when he wrote his book A Rough Ride, Kimmage is regarded as one of the most outspoken anti-doping critics in cycling. He has been very rigorous on the issue and, as a result of that, his endorsement of teams is valued. The Garmin/Slipstream setup gained a lot of credibility when Kimmage wrote about it during the 2008 Tour de France, being embedded with the team for the duration of the race and speaking to riders and team staff about their stance.

He went to that race guarded about the team but came away a believer. As a result Jonathan Vaughters and his riders received a strong boost in terms of their public perception.

Kimmage said that he arranged to do the same with Sky in 2010 but, on the eve of the race, Bradley Wiggins blocked it from happening as agreed.

“It was Wiggins specifically who rejected it. I went over to Manchester, I sat down with Brailsford and everything was sorted. I hired a van specifically for the purpose of following them for the Tour,” he told VeloNation. “A day before I was to go to Amsterdam, Fran Millar called me and said there was a problem. I went to Amsterdam, sat down with them and Brailsford said, ‘basically, look, Wiggins is not happy. Is it okay if you pick up the team in eight days time?” I said ‘no, it is from the start or nothing,’ and that is where it was left.

“I suppose that was an awareness for me that they were not practicing what they preached. You purport to be this, let’s see what you got, and suddenly when they were asked to back it up, they back down.”

Kimmage isn’t accusing Wiggins of doping; he’s saying that he, and the team, have not been as transparent as they promised. He also states that the team should expect questions as leaders of the Tour de France, but that Wiggins has not handled this well.

Essentially, the Irishman believes it is the duty of the yellow jersey of the Tour to show that he is doing things the right way, and not to shirk from talking about the biggest issue to blight the sport in recent decades.

“I’m troubled by Wiggins’ change in attitude. He rants about these Tweeters, the people on Twitter. In fact, I was the subject from abuse from him on Twitter. In the race he finished fourth in, he wrote ‘where is Paul Kimmage, missed his cheery little face on the Tour this year.’

“That was the 2009 Tour, when Armstrong had come back. I had to leave the race as all of the pieces I had written on Armstrong had been rejected by the newspaper [Kimmage wrote for the Sunday Times at that point – ed.]. That is why I wasn’t on the race – I had left the race early. My reward for this was that snarky little remark from Wiggins. He has been a huge disappointment.

“He was so outspoken about doping before, and needs to keep doing that. And the press need to be asking questions, too. The greatest indictment of our profession at the moment is the fact that although Wiggins had this rant about Twitter, that is where the pertinent questions are being asked now: on Twitter.”

Also see: Team Sky denies any wrongdoing by doctor, is examining his past


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