(Reuters) – Owner of Team INEOS Jim Ratcliffe says he has no fears that the kind of controversies that have dogged Team Sky in recent years will make him regret his decision to invest in cycling, but warned he will not tolerate cheating.
Broadcaster Sky announced last year it was pulling out after investing around 150 million pounds ($196 million) over a decade to turn Dave Brailsford’s outfit into serial winners of the Grand Tours.
While enjoying many highs, including Chris Froome’s four Tour de France titles, Team Sky’s ‘winning clean’ ethos was tarnished by scepticism after a package delivered to Bradley Wiggins before his 2012 Tour win was the subject of a U.K. Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation.
A 14-month investigation found serious flaws in Sky’s medical record keeping while last year a damning report by the British government’s Digital Culture Media and Sport select committee concluded that the team had cynically abused the anti-doping system by using therapeutic-use exemption certificates.
Froome himself, who was part of the official launch of Team INEOS on Wednesday in a remote Yorkshire, was cleared of wrongdoing last year after an adverse analytical finding for asthma medicine salbutamol in 2017.
Ratcliffe, who has acquired the team and will pump in 120 million pounds over the next three years, said he had done due diligence on Brailsford’s running of the team and did not expect any more public relations disasters.
“Clearly we were not ignorant of that. We did think about it,” Ratcliffe told reporters, when asked if Team Sky’s controversies had made him question whether to add a cycling team to his involvement in the America’s Cup sailing and soccer.
“We looked at the processes in Team Sky that prevent bad behavior. I think they’re as good as they get.”
He made it quite clear, however, that he will not tolerate anything other than clean racing.
“I have no interest in using methods to enhance performance that you shouldn’t use,” he said. “I have no interest in that.
“I have no problem with marginal gains: better bearings, better chain links or better aerodynamics, that’s clever stuff, that’s fine. That’s all Formula 1 stuff but I’ve got absolutely no interest in cheating. That’s not my game.
“But I think the sport is in a different place. The science is that much better — in terms of the testing.”
After the turbulence of recent years, Brailsford also said he was looking forward to a new chapter.
“This next chapter will be very different after the last one,” he told reporters. “Jim and I spoke about the way these guys run their business, it’s very exciting.
“The excellence that they have in their business. It’s something I would like to bring and share into our world.”