Sky face troubling questions over coach amid zero tolerance policy

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      alejandropetro
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      <p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>For almost 14 years, thousands of pages of sensational court evidence from a major drug trafficking trial have gathered dust in a warehouse in the French city of Reims.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>The tourist destination at the heart of the Champagne region is perhaps best known for its beautiful cathedral and for the sparkling tipple famous for being sprayed at the denouement of major sporting occasions like the Tour de France.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Now long forgotten by all but the most die-hard cycling aficionados, in 2001 the Palais de Justice there hosted a landmark trial of three officials from a Dutch cycling team, TVM.

      They stood accused of trafficking a panoply of drugs, including the illegal blood booster EPO, to their riders in 1998.</font></p><div class=”artSplitter mol-img-group”> <div class=”mol-img”> <div class=”image-wrap”> Dave Brailsford, former director Sean Yates and Servais Knaven (second right) with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 - a 1998 sample from Knaven showing an EPO level of 0.7 was used to convict traffickers in a French court  </div> <noscript> Dave Brailsford, former director Sean Yates and Servais Knaven (second right) with Bradley Wiggins in 2012 - a 1998 sample from Knaven showing an EPO level of 0.7 was used to convict traffickers in a French court  </noscript> </div> <p class=”imageCaption”>Dave Brailsford, former director Sean Yates and Servais Knaven advise Bradley Wiggins during the 2012 Tour</p></div><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>The trial ended with TVM’s Dutch team manager, Cees Priem, their doctor Andrei Mikhailov, a Russian, and Jan Moors, a soigneur (a team ‘carer’ who oversees massage, meals and some aspects of training) handed prison sentences and fines.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>The prison terms were significant, albeit suspended, being respectively for 18 months, one year and six months, with fines on top of up to £9,000 each.

      The trio never appealed.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>None of TVM’s riders was prosecuted, a deliberate tactic by the authorities to encourage them instead to be truthful about their suppliers. But the team’s endemic doping programme was exposed. </font></p><div class=”artSplitter mol-img-group”> <div class=”mol-img”> <div class=”image-wrap”> Brailsford leads the self-styled 'cleanest team in cycling' that produced Britain's first ever Tour winner </div> <noscript> Brailsford leads the self-styled 'cleanest team in cycling' that produced Britain's first ever Tour winner </noscript> </div> <p class=”imageCaption”>Brailsford leads the self-styled ‘cleanest team in cycling’ that produced Britain’s first ever Tour winner</p></div><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”></font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>One of TVM’s riders at the time was Dutchman Servais Knaven, now a 44-year-old key lieutenant to Dave Brailsford within Team Sky, the self-styled ‘cleanest team in cycling’ that produced Britain’s first ever Tour winner in Bradley Wiggins in 2012 and second in Chris Froome in 2013. </font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Knaven, a ‘directeur sportif’ with vital strategic responsibilities at Team Sky since 2011, was a 27-year-old rider at the 1998 Tour and has always insisted he has never knowingly doped and he played no part in the 1998 Tour scandal. </font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Knaven said on Saturday: ‘A number of allegations have been made against me about my time as a professional cyclist.

      Many go back over 15 years and were contested at the time. I want to make it crystal clear — I never used performance enhancing drugs at any point during my professional career. I have said this throughout. I repeat it today.’ </font></p><div class=”artSplitter mol-img-group”><div class=”splitLeft”><div class=”mol-img”> <div class=”image-wrap”> Dutch rider Servais Knaven during the 2003 Tour de France </div> <noscript> Dutch rider Servais Knaven during the 2003 Tour de France </noscript> </div></div><div class=”splitRight”><div class=”mol-img”> <div class=”image-wrap”> Now sports director Knaven's </div> <noscript> Now sports director Knaven's </noscript> </div></div><div class=”clear”></div><p class=”imageCaption”>Directeur sportif for Team Sky Servais Knaven has always insisted he has never knowingly doped</p></div><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>But now, after a major Mail on Sunday investigation into illegal drug-taking in cycling over several decades — and full access to those documents, courtesy of special permission granted by the French courts — we can reveal:</font></p><ul class=”mol-bullets-with-font”><li class=””><font style=”font-size: 1.2em;”>An expert toxicologist who tested Knaven’s blood, taken when TVM abandoned the 1998 Tour following a police raid that July, testified he had taken EPO</font><li class=””><font style=”font-size: 1.2em;”>Cortisone, a banned endurance steroid warehouse hormone that riders are not allowed to take without special permission, was found in his urine</font><li class=””><font style=”font-size: 1.2em;”>A drug called Naftidrofuryl, which widens the blood vessels and is most typically used in the treatment of arterial disease, was also in his urine, as was a trace of the anti-inflammatory drug propyphenazone</font><li class=””><font style=”font-size: 1.2em;”>Sachets of a drug called Persantin was found in Knaven’s room.

      Also known as dipyridamole, it is a blood thinner designed to prevent clots. There is seemingly no sporting reason for taking it but it could be used as a ‘counterbalance’ for users of EPO, which can dangerously thicken the blood</font><li class=””><font style=”font-size: 1.2em;”>Knaven said: ‘With regard to use of Persantin and Naftidrofuryl, neither of them were illegal or on the list of banned substances.

      I used them on very rare occasions to get rid of cramps during long stage races.'</font><li class=””><font style=”font-size: 1.2em;”>Statements given to police by Knaven in December 1998, of which the MoS has full transcripts, show that he did not contest the findings of tests on his urine, blood and hair.
      He said there could be an alternative explanation to the EPO finding other than doping; he had no idea what some of the other drugs were or how they got into his system; admitted taking Persantin, for ‘heavy legs’; and concluded by saying Mikhailov was a good doctor and that he, Knaven, took whatever the doctor told him; the medical evidence was disputed in court.</font><div class=”artSplitter mol-img-group”> <div class=”mol-img”> <div class=”image-wrap”> Six teams dropped out in protest at 1998 Tour and the pack was reduced to fewer than 100 riders from 189 </div> <noscript> Six teams dropped out in protest at 1998 Tour and the pack was reduced to fewer than 100 riders from 189 </noscript> </div> <p class=”imageCaption”>Six teams dropped out in protest at 1998 Tour and the pack was reduced to fewer than 100 riders from 189</p></div><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>The 2001 trial had its origins in police discovering 104 doses of EPO in a convoy organised by Mikhailov in 1998; police raids followed during the Tour.

      Knaven and team-mates were taken in for questioning — and for samples — at that time and were questioned again about the findings in December 1998.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>The toxicology reports that led to testimony Knaven had allegedly taken EPO, wittingly or otherwise, were compiled by two doctors whose evidence was challenged in court.

      ‘There was an intense debate in the proceedings about this but the court ultimately ruled it was good medical evidence,’ says Laurent Caigny, the current deputy prosecutor in Reims, who also worked in the courts in 2001.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>The procedure used by the experts in 1998 to indicate EPO use was technically advanced for the time.

      The logic is now used in the blood passport programme, whereby athlete’s blood levels are monitored over time against their own ‘normal’ readings.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Knaven’s explanation for doping substances in his system and possession in 1998 was that he did not know how they got into his system and he just took what he was told.

      As he told the police at the time: ‘I’ve never tested positive, therefore whatever Mikhailov has given is inevitably allowed. I don’t ask questions. For me it’s enough to know that whatever I take, I don’t test positive. I trust Mikhailov.'</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>The riders were never on trial and therefore would not have had a chance to test properly the evidence about doping aired in court.

      Nor did they ever face any sporting sanctions.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Caigny told the MoS that the French justice system took a strategic decision to go after the traffickers and not the cyclists. ‘When they [the riders] knew they weren’t going to be charged, they talked,’ he said.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Team Sky have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to doping, with no place on the team for anyone confirmed to have taken or dealt in performance-enhancing drugs.

      All staff are asked to sign statements saying they have never doped at any point in their careers.</font></p><div class=”artSplitter mol-img-group”> <div class=”mol-img”> <div class=”image-wrap”> The Palais de Justice  in Reims hosted a landmark trial in 2001 of three officials from Dutch cycling team TVM </div> <noscript> The Palais de Justice  in Reims hosted a landmark trial in 2001 of three officials from Dutch cycling team TVM </noscript> </div> <p class=”imageCaption”>The Palais de Justice  in Reims hosted a landmark trial in 2001 of three officials from Dutch cycling team TVM</p></div><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Most of Knaven’s TVM team-mates have subsequently admitted to doping during their careers.

      One of them, Steven de Jongh, had to leave his own coaching role at Team Sky in 2012 as a result, having previously claimed a no-doping past. After the departure of Jongh and other former dopers in 2012, Team Sky again asked all remaining staff, Knaven included, to reiterate in writing they had ‘clean’ pasts.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>As the MoS found, a culture of silence remains in place in cycling.

      We spoke to former riders and coaches across several teams, including some still serving long bans and, as one of them told the MoS: ‘Why would I now inform on my former colleagues and friends who doped? There’s no incentive.'</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>Team Sky said: ‘Team Sky’s policy on zero tolerance is well known. We have had a clear anti-doping policy from the start which we reiterated in 2012.

      We are proud of the leadership role we have played in helping move the sport on to a brighter future and showing you can win clean. We have always said that if we were presented with clear evidence we would put it through our anti-doping process to establish the facts.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>‘We have taken these allegations very seriously.

      In the limited time we have had, we have done everything possible to investigate them. More importantly we handed over the information presented to us to three independent world-class anti-doping experts for their analysis and expert opinion.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>‘Their view on the basis of what has been presented to us is that there is no proof of doping and Servais continues to maintain his innocence.

      We would be happy to share these findings with any other anti-doping agency.</font></p><p class=”mol-para-with-font”><font style=”font-size:1.2em”>‘It is important to remember that no charges were ever brought against Servais. This goes back over 15 years and has been looked at several times during that period.
      Servais has played an important part in the success of Team Sky over the last five years. He remains a valued team member.'</font></p><div><div data-track-module=”am-related_carousel^related_carousel” data-track-selector=”.rotator-panels a:not([class*=external])” data-dm-rotator-rotate=”false” data-track-pos=”static” data-preferred-shared-network-enabled=”” data-dm-rotator-auto-init=”” id=”p-30″ class=”related-carousel with-fb-or-tw sport” data-dm-rotator-active-class=”active” data-dm-rotator-page-count=”1.0″ data-dm-social-article-auto-init=”” data-dm-rotator-page-size=”1″> <div class=”rotator bdrcc”> <div class=”rotator-title”> <h2>RELATED ARTICLES</h2> <ul class=”rotator-pages link-xocc”> <li class=”rotator-prev”>Previous

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