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LONDON (VN) — Sean Yates ended a 30-year career as a rider and team director when Team Sky announced he was retiring on Sunday.
The 52-year-old Englishman — who as a rider won stages on the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España — leaves after a three-year sojourn that saw Sky enjoy a stunning season, with the highlight being Bradley Wiggins’s victory in the Tour de France.
There had been speculation that Yates’ departure as lead sports director meant that he had fallen afoul of Team Sky’s rigid anti-doping policies. All riders and staff have been subject to interviews and required to sign a pledge swearing that they have never doped. Anyone refusing to sign the pledge faced dismissal.
But in announcing his departure Sky management said he had given “no admissions or disclosures that would have required him to leave the team.”
Indeed, general manager Dave Brailsford showered Yates with praise.
“Sean joined us in our first year and has been with us for three tough but rewarding seasons,” said Brailsford. “After a long career in professional cycling, he has told us that he wants to move on, for purely personal reasons.
“Sean has been a great support to the riders on the road and a valuable colleague to us all. We wish him the best for the next step in his life.”
Yates released his own statement, calling his tenure with Sky “fantastic and a highlight of my long career in cycling.”
“I’m proud to have been involved with the team at such an incredible time for the sport,” Yates said.
“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.
“I realize the timing of my retirement will lead to speculation given what is currently going on in the sport but I can walk away with my head held high knowing I have done nothing wrong.”
Yates had been one of the rare members of the cycling fraternity to defend disgraced American Lance Armstrong, whom the UCI stripped of his seven Tour titles last Monday.
Yates, who rode alongside Armstrong at the Motorola team and later worked with him at Discovery Channel and Astana, said he never saw the American do anything illegal.
“It’s all pretty damning for Lance and the whole history of his seven Tour wins, and beyond,” he told BBC Radio earlier this month.
“My opinion is one of disappointment, I’m upset, really. … at the depth of the whole system. I worked with Lance but never had any indication this practice was going on,” he said.
“I was there in 2005, for his last Tour win, and before then I was working with another team. I’d turn up, I’d drive the car in the Tour de France, and I never saw an indication of anything dodgy going on. I used to go out in the morning, go out on my bike, go back, drive the car, and call the tactics now and then, but I never saw anything untoward.”