Steven de Jongh has become the third member of Team Sky’s staff to leave the team in a week.
The departures have followed the team’s reaffirmation of its anti-doping philosophy: a zero tolerance policy that will see each member of the team interviewed individually and asked to leave if they cannot sign a pledge never to have been involved with doping.
Race coach, Bobby Julich, left last Wednesday (October 25) after admitting to doping in the mid 1990s, and, in an unrelated move, directeur sportif, Sean Yates, announced his retirement from cycling yesterday.
Now Team Sky has confirmed the rumoured departure of de Jongh, who joined the team as a directeur sportif at its inception in 2010 and led this year’s Classics campaign.
In a statement published on his website, de Jongh admitted to taking EPO “on a few occasions” between 1998 and 2000.
“I stopped because it was wrong and it wasn’t worth the risks – to my health, to the family I wanted, or of getting caught. The years after I’d stopped doping were sometimes hard. But cycling was slowly getting better and I managed to win races clean. I think the ‘whereabouts system’ and biological passport were great things for this sport.
“I’ve always believed that everyone should take responsibility for their own decisions and it’s easy to see that I made entirely the wrong ones in the past. I made my biggest mistakes a long time ago but I need to admit this so I can move on. I want to stay in this sport but I know that it can’t be with Team Sky. It’s sad to be leaving but there’s no other option.
“I’ve learned a lot at Team Sky and have great people around me. We came into the sport with big ambitions, and I’m proud I was part of building this team. It’s hard to let go but after three amazing years I don’t want a price to be paid later, by me or the team. I don’t want to let these people down.
“The discussions going on in Team Sky have given me the chance to be honest about all this. Some might think I could have kept quiet, but this is a good chance for me to talk openly, the best moment to admit my mistakes. It’s time to talk,” he said.
De Jongh’s statement records his willingness to continue working in cycling and a position at odds with Team Sky’s approach.
“I truly regret what I did. And I believe it’s important that if you make a mistake you can still get a chance in life. It would be a huge regret if my mistakes of 12 years ago meant I could no longer work in cycling. People might accept and forgive if we can only tell them what happened,” he said.
In a statement, team principal, Dave Brailsford, praised de Jongh as a highly valued directeur and colleague.
“Steven deserves our respect for the courage he’s shown in being honest about the past and it’s right that we do our best to support him.
“He has our best wishes for the next step in his career,” he said.