The United States Anti-Doping Agency chief executive responsible for pursuing Lance Armstrong has said he is "very concerned" about the zero-tolerance approach taken by Team Sky to drugs, fearing it could be counterproductive.
Travis Tygart, who drove Usada's investigation into what he said was "the most professionalised, sophisticated doping programme that sport will ever see", said he "firmly believed" that a truth and reconciliation process would be more beneficial in healing the sport.
Since the Armstrong revelations, Team Sky's performance director, Dave Brailsford, has overseen a rebooted zero-tolerance process via a series of interviews where employees have been encouraged to come clean about any doping in their past. If they had been involved with doping, they were asked to leave the team but were supported financially. Two members of the coaching staff, Bobby Julich and Steven de Jongh, were released from their contracts under the policy. The team leader Sean Yates left the squad in October citing personal reasons.
Tygart, in his first interview since the UCI ratified its decision to annul Armstrong's seven Tour de France victories, said he feared the approach would have unintended consequences and discourage those with something to hide from coming forward.
"We're very concerned about this zero-tolerance approach right now," he said. "We firmly believe, and we've put a lot of thought into it over the last year and a half, that a limited truth and reconciliation commission and process is the only way to move forward. That past will come out, one way or the other – whether it's through books or athletes who retire and want to tell their kids or whatever. It's going to dig itself out drip by drip. But why wouldn't you now, in a very limited period of time, given the background and the other athletes involved, have an opportunity for a truth and reconciliation commission to start afresh, to have a clean sport?"
His concerns echo those earlier expressed by David Howman, the World Anti-Doping Agency director general. "If it is destroying their lives then you have got to wonder if it is a sound idea, not many are going to fess up if they lose their jobs," Howman said. "Zero-tolerance doesn't make much sense in the overall effort to clean up sport."
Usada is continuing to investigate those involved in the US Postal conspiracy. "There are still several dozen redacted names from our reasoned decision," said Tygart. "Footnote 18 [in its reasoned decision] says we're still continuing our investigation and that's about those names."
The Usada chief executive said he hoped the Armstrong case would be a "watershed" moment not only for cycling and drug-free sport but for society in general.
"This was the most professionalised, sophisticated doping programme that sport will ever see," he said. "Let's hope it never sees one of this scale and this successful. It was designed to win and they won. It was designed to keep it quiet and it kept it quiet for a long period of time. We need to show that win at all costs does have costs.
"Our interest is ensuring that no other athletes chase a dream as a young kid and end up only able to achieve that dream by using dangerous performance-enhancing drugs and then living a fraud."
He said that even Armstrong's most ardent supporters had now had to accept that the 41-year-old was at the centre of a highly sophisticated doping ring.
"It's undeniable what the truth is. I don't think any reasonable people, or even unreasonable people, could question what happened. The grand heist, as we've called it, actually took place. The process has confirmed that."
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