It has to be one of the oldest excuses in the book of severing work relationships. It means “we’re not going to talk about it,” but since the excuse was played out when John Mitchell used it to leave the Nixon re-election campaign, it only furthers speculation anytime this old chestnut is dusted off and trotted out.
Sean Yates tells us he’s leaving Team Sky because “I have suffered with my health in recent years and have spent a lot of time away from my home so I feel the time is right to focus on myself and my family.”
That’s before checking out Yates soloing for the final 31 (50km) miles of the 1994 USPRO championships after being in a break all day. Granted it was a big break, but his average speed was 41.43kph (25.89mph) for 156mi (250km). I’d like to believe he got that result clean, the field, save his own Motorola team, was largely domestic pros, but then it’s strange that it was the second-fastest USPRO up to that point.
Yates could have certainly given up that Motorola team doctor Max Testa had instructed riders in how to safely inject themselves–as Testa didn’t want anyone dying. Frankie Andreu believes that most of the team rode clean in 1994, but then it, after the 1995 Milan-San Remo, the mood on the team changed. In 1995, the Motorola Tour de France team tested their hematocrit themselves mid-race and a 47 hematocrit was one of the lowest numbers. (Also public knowledge, thanks to From Lance to Landis). And this is stuff Sky management could have certainly found out before hiring Yates to begin with.
What it makes much harder is his claim of not seeing anything. He was on the inside once, he must have been able to tell something was going on, even if he actually didn’t see anything. But considering how open both Armstrong and Bruyneel were about doping, it’s hard to imagine Yates not hearing anything.
Bobby Julich, also sacked by Sky because of doping, likewise, was on Motorola in 1995-96 with Yates, but looking at his results, it is easy to believe that he didn’t start doping until the 1996 Vuelta, as he was pretty anonymous until then, and his doping reached a peak at the 1998 Tour, when he placed third, which basically coincides with what Julich has confessed to.
While there is something to be said for a zero-tolerance approach, it’s pretty clear that Sky didn’t see a need to fully embrace it until Scandal Lance arrived. And that might be a more telling issue as time goes on.