Dave Brailsford has revealed his shock at the “jaw dropping” revelations against Lance Armstrong.
Armstrong has, in a damning 1,000-page dossier assembled by the US Anti-Doping Agency, been accused of leading “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme that sport has ever seen”.
And Brailsford admits the allegations have brought the whole sport into disrepute.
“It is understandable now for people to look at any results in cycling and question that,” said Brailsford.
“It completely and utterly lost its way and I think it lost its moral compass. It is shocking, it’s jaw dropping and it is very unpleasant. It’s not very palatable and anybody who says it is would be lying wouldn’t they?”
The USADA dossier has tarnished what was left of Armstrong’s reputation and, should the UCI choose not to appeal to the World Anti-Doping Agency, the American will be stripped of the seven Tour de France titles won between 1999 and 2005.
Armstrong has also been labelled a “serial cheat” by USADA; a bully who pressured team-mates into doping to fuel his own ambition and thereby deceiving a legion of loyal fans.
“I think there are plenty of people out there who saw this guy and what he did as an amazing achievement,” said Brailsford.
“He is one of the first cyclists that maybe transcended the sport and became a hero beyond cycling. It was an amazing thing and people got behind that. So to now find out what was behind it is, of course, disappointing.”
Brailsford launched Team Sky in 2010 with a zero tolerance anti-doping policy and an ambition to win the Tour de France within five years with a clean, British rider. Bradley Wiggins fulfilled that ambition in 2012.
“Everybody has recalibrated and several teams like ourselves are hell-bent on doing it the right way and doing it clean,” said Brailsford.
But the dossier against Armstrong’s includes testimony from Michael Barry, one of 11 former team-mates to speak out against the Texan, and who rode for Team Sky from 2010 before retiring last month.
“We signed Michael from HTC which was, at the time, highly regarded as being a very sound, clean team,” said Brailsford.
“During his time at Team Sky, we have had absolutely no cause for concern whatsoever, there has never been any question in terms of his performances, his training, his behaviour on the team.
“There have never been any issues in that respect. But ultimately he lied.
“We set out with a zero tolerance policy, so we said that anyone who has had a doping conviction from the past or proved to have been involved in doping hasn’t got a place on Team Sky. That is our policy.
“When you take someone you ask them a question and if someone lies to you and you find out later it’s disappointing.”
Barry has since apologised via a statement on his website. The Canadian insists he has ridden clean since 2006 and hopes speaking out about his experience will help shape the future of the sport.
“Recently, I was contacted by United States Anti-Doping Agency to testify in their investigation into the use of performance enhancing drugs on the United States Postal Service Team,” said Barry.
“I agreed to participate as it allowed me to explain my experiences, which I believe will help improve the sport for today’s youth who aspire to be tomorrow’s champions.
“After being encouraged by the team, pressured to perform and pushed to my physical limits I crossed a line I promised myself and others I would not: I doped. It was a decision I deeply regret. It caused me sleepless nights, took the fun out of cycling and racing, and tainted the success I achieved at the time. This was not how I wanted to live or race.
“In the summer of 2006, I never doped again and became a proponent of clean cycling through my writing and interviews.
“From 2006 until the end of my career in 2012, I chose to race for teams that took a strong stance against doping. Although I never confessed to my past, I wrote and spoke about the need for change. Cycling is now a cleaner sport, many teams have adopted anti-doping policies and most importantly I know a clean rider can now win at the highest level.
“I apologise to those I deceived. I will accept my suspension and any other consequences. I will work hard to regain people’s trust.”