Bradley Wiggins’ response to suggestions Team Sky’s tactics en route to his Tour de France win last July were reminiscent of Lance Armstrong’s United States Postal Service team — and the implication of doping — was laden with expletives, but Brailsford agreed wholeheartedly with the sentiment.
The Team Sky principal, who is also British Cycling performance director, has admitted making mistakes, in particular in the recruitment of the Belgian doctor Geert Leinders, who had a chequered history with Rabobank.
Like Wiggins, Brailsford, who masterminded the British teams haul of eight gold medals at the Beijing 2008 and London 2012 Olympics, angrily refutes the internet rumours which continue to follow the success of his team.
“The Leinders question is legitimate and when we do things there are legitimate questions that should be asked. We want them to be asked and we’re more than happy to answer them. But I don’t like innuendo. That’s unfair,” he told Cyclingnews and two other journalists while at Tirreno-Adriatico, following Chris Froome and Team Sky.
“There are plenty of journalists who like to think that were at it. But when you read some of the things that are written on the internet, the accusations and the innuendo, they’re incorrect.”
“If you acted on the basis of that, it’d be totally unjust. So I’m not going to do the same to someone else. You’ve got to work with evidence and facts. That’s the way the world works. I’d be out of a job for sure if I didn’t.”
Brailsford accepts that he made a mistake by hiring Dr Leinders, but refutes the idea that the Belgian doctor’s presence in the team was somehow proof that doping goes on at Team Sky. Brailsford claimed that long success with the Great Britain team at the Olympics is a guarantee of his integrity.
“Of course it was a mistake. Absolutely. But hiring one doctor, who worked for 40 days, does that means we’re doping now, are we? How does that work?” he said, using a stream of questions to give his answer.
“If you’re a cheat, you’re a cheat, you’re not half a cheat. You wouldn’t say, ‘I’ll cheat here but I’m not going to cheat over there; I’ll cheat on a Monday but not on a Tuesday.’
“So we were doping in the Olympics too? If I’m a doper, if I’m a liar, I’m a liar in my personality through and through. So why didn’t I dope the Olympic team for the last 15 years? Have I just decided I’m going to do it with this team? I’m not going to do it over there but I’ll cheat here? Full gas. But we’ve dominated the Olympic games for 15 years. Explain that to me. We didn’t just win at the Olympic games, we dominated them, we smashed it out of the park. More than anyone else has ever done. That level of performance is monumental.
“If I’m a liar and a cheat and if my ethics and morals are all about cheating, if that’s what we’re doing here, lying to the world and cheating, then surely I’ll be doing it in other places in my life. Not just parts.”
Team Sky’s control of major stage races — their tactics of riding at the front of the peloton, controlling the pace and countering attacks — have been criticised in some quarters and likened to those of US Postal, where Armstrong and his team-mates were undertaking what has since been described as the “the most sophisticated, professionalised and successful doping programme sport has ever seen”.
Brailsford defended the tactics.
“If people want the entertainment value of riders attacking each other, stopping, attacking each other again and again, then go back to ’old cycling’, which will give you the capability to do that,” he said.
“If you want clean sport and clean cycling, then it’s going to be different. You can’t have it both ways. There’s an element of reality about what we’re doing.”