Porte defends zero tolerance on drugs

TASMANIAN cyclist Richie Porte has defended Team Sky's zero tolerance approach to doping despite it costing him his most valued mentor.

Since appointing itself to lead the way in cycling's war on drugs, the team which took Bradley Wiggins to last year's Tour de France crown has seen the departures of sport directors Steven de Jongh and Sean Yates and race coach Bobby Julich.

Porte, who had Julich as his personal coach at Sky and former team Saxobank, has spoken publicly for the first time about the saga sparked by the doping revelations that saw Lance Armstrong stripped of his seven Tour titles.

"It's not our generation that's the problem but we are the ones that have to answer to it," said the Hadspen 27-year-old.

"Cycling has skeletons in its closet but really does air its dirty washing in public.

"It may have taken a fair few body blows but it is only going to get cleaner with the cheats being caught and what other sport is doing more than cycling to change?"

Porte, who won the Tour of the Algarve this season before playing a key role in leading Wiggins to victory in Paris, admitted he was saddened by the departures from Sky, especially Tour de France and Olympic podium finisher Julich.

"It's a shame that cycling is a laughing stock but you've got to take the good with the bad," he said.

"For guys in my generation, it's very sad because doping is non-existent, especially in our team.

"But unfortunately good people sometimes do bad things and we've lost guys like Bobby, who I was very close to. Any dealings I had with him were absolutely professional. Since I turned pro Bobby is probably the guy I've had the most to do with and I'll miss him.

"Sean Yates was also brilliant. He's very charismatic and the hard man of the sport. He'd be up every morning before everyone else riding his bike. As a director, I've never known one that connects so well with his riders.

"It's sad to lose Bobby, Sean and Steven de Jongh but that's cycling. People come and go in our career."

Speaking to The Examiner from his European base in Monaco, Porte said matters came to a head in mid-October when Sky called a team meeting after USADA announced that its ex-rider Michael Barry would be suspended for six months for admissions of doping during his time with Armstrong's US Postal Cycling Team.

Team principal Dave Brailsford reiterated that there was no place in Sky for dopers and all riders were interviewed individually.

"Especially after the season we had, ending as the No.1-ranked team in the world it was a bit sad that instead of celebrating our season we were talking of the past. I do understand Dave Brailsford is under a lot of pressure and has to make some tough calls, which he has done during the past two weeks. I believe Sky and Dave have shown that they aren't just talking tough but also putting into action their commitment to a zero tolerance on doping."

Porte echoed the views of fellow Tasmanian pro Will Clarke that the elite peloton knew the Armstrong story long before it broke in the media.

"We first knew in 2010 and really it's taken 2 1/2 years to come out. But now is the time to do it rather than the week before the Tour when journalists usually like to break these stories."

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