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Retired professional Michael Barry told The Telegraph that he thinks Team Sky puts results before riders’ best interests and that the British team has been “unethical” in providing painkiller tramadol to its cyclists in races.
“It is a health issue,” Barry said. “Taking care of athletes should be a team’s priority. Instead everyone involved has a ‘bias’ [agenda], from the mechanics to the team directors — everybody’s jobs are reliant on the athletes’ performances, so priorities are skewed, and people will do whatever they can to gain an edge, whether pharmaceutical or technological. But this wasn’t just a problem at Sky. It’s a problem for the sport in general.”
Sky fired the Canadian in 2012 after he was found to have been part of the U.S. Postal Team’s doping program alongside Lance Armstrong.
In his 2014 book, “Shadows on the Road,” Barry asserted that he had confronted one of Sky’s doctors about what he felt was rampant use of tramadol on the team. According to him, the doctor did little to assuage his concerns.
The same year as that book was published, Team Sky said that it no longer allows riders to train or race while taking tramadol. “Team Sky do not give it to riders whilst racing or training, either as a pre-emptive measure or to manage existing pain,” a spokesperson said at the time.
“I loved my time with the team, I had a great experience there. But, ethically, I really started questioning the use of the tramadol, and the sleeping pills, especially when you see the younger riders using this stuff heavily,” said Barry. “If we went into a medical clinic and just asked their GP [general practitioner], they probably wouldn’t give these out. And that is not ethical.”
During his 11-year career, Barry was primarily a domestique, with his only major win coming at the 2008 Tour of Missouri, in stage 4. He raced with Team Sky from 2010-2012 but was not part of Bradley Wiggins’s Tour-winning team in 2012.
“The thing with doping is that there is a black and a white,” he added. “Did the team [Sky] cross into the black? No, in my opinion. They didn’t dope, but there is a grey area. The use of painkillers falls into that grey area. Tramadol falls into that grey area.”