Cycling: Sean Yates insists retirement has no connection to Team Sky doping probe
Sports director denies investigation caused his departure, despite Armstrong links
Just three months after guiding Bradley Wiggins to Britain's greatest-ever victory in the history of road cycling, when the Londoner captured the country's first-ever Tour de France win, Sky's lead sports director, Sean Yates, has quit the team.
Yates's sudden resignation comes in the midst of the team's full-scale enquiry into management and riders' potential links to doping, but both the former Tour de France leader and his – now – ex-team insist that the his departure is purely for health and family reasons.
His past as a former team-mate of Lance Armstrong's and sports director on the American's team from 2005-7 had led to questions being raised about Yates's future at Sky when the British team announced their anti-doping probe – designed to ensure that anyone revealing past connections to banned drugs use, however distant, would be asked to leave.
However, Yates today insisted his departure had nothing to do with that investigation. "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," he said.
"I realise 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 has had a series of heart problems following his retirement from the sport in 1996, needing at least one operation and forcing him, on occasions, to stop riding at amateur level. His resignation from Britain's squad follows hard on the heels of the exit of Bobby Julich, another Team Sky coach, after the 1998 Tour de France finisher confessed to taking the banned blood-booster EPO for two years in the 1990s.
It is not known if others apart from Julich will leave the squad as a result of Sky's enquiries, with the Team Principal, Dave Brailsford, saying earlier this month that the investigation could take "years" to complete. Yesterday, Sky refused to comment on other possible cases. Repeated calls by The Independent to the team's press officer and Sky management were not returned.
"Sean has been interviewed and there were no admissions or disclosures that would have required him to leave the team," read a press statement issued by the team.
Yates, 52, was one of Britain's best-known and popular professionals from the 1980s and 1990s, leading the Tour for one day in 1994, and winning stages of both the Tour de France and the Vuelta a España. From 1992 to 1996, at the American squad Motorola, he was a team-mate of Armstrong's, where he was valued as a top domestique – team helper – and also secured fifth place in cycling's toughest one-day classic, the Paris-Roubaix.
After retiring, Yates then worked as sports director in the ill-fated Linda McCartney team – Bradley Wiggins's first-ever pro squad for a few weeks of 2001 before it collapsed when sponsors unexpectedly pulled out – as well as having the same role in Discovery Channel – Armstrong's team – from 2005 to 2007 and Alberto Contador's Astana squad in 2008, guiding the Spaniard to victory in the Giro d'Italia.
Yates claimed earlier this month that he saw nothing untoward at his time in Armstrong's squad, insisting his duties were purely on the logistical side of the team.
Signed by Sky as a manager in 2010, Yates worked closely with Wiggins as the Briton honed his approach to stage racing. When Wiggins clinched his breakthrough victory at the Critérium du Dauphine, the Tour's main warm-up race, in 2011, Yates was behind the driving wheel of the main support car and he was there again when the Londoner completed his series of historic wins for Sky this year with victory in the Tour.
With the new season due to start in just three months, the question of who will fill Sky's top director's spot is an increasingly pressing one for Brailsford. A significant percentage, though by no means all, of cycling's top managers have had direct or indirect links to banned drugs in the past and Sky's hardline anti-doping policy could make for a potentially long, painstaking search for Yates's replacement. But with the season's first major race, the Tour Down Under in Australia, in late January and training camps soon to get under way, time is not on their side.
Sean Yates' career in the saddle
Born Ewell, Surrey
Years riding 1982-1996
Discipline Road (Domestique)
British National Road Race Champion 1992
Wore the Maillot Jaune in the 1994 Tour de France
Linda McCartney Racing Team (1996-2001)
Discovery Channel (2005-2009) Team Sky (2010-2012)
Yates after the publication of USADA’s doping evidence against Lance Armstrong: “It’s all pretty damning for Lance and the whole history of his seven Tour wins. My opinion is one of disappointment, I’m upset, really. [I’m shocked] at the depth of the whole system. I worked with Lance but never had any indication this practice was going on. I never saw any indication of anything dodgy going on.”
John Moore starred in Coca Cola and Morrisons adverts
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
Former boxer recalls incident when he was seven years old
Charlie Sheen could be set to revive his role as a hedonistic womaniser
Review: Mike Leigh's biopic is a rambling, rich character study
Want to ward off (or welcome) trick-or-treaters? Here's how
Latest in Sport
Manchester City vs Manchester United combined XI: No place for Yaya Toure... or any United defenders
Sami Khedira transfer news: Arsenal can win the Premier League if they sign Khedira in January, says Perry Groves
Paul Scholes: At last! Some credit for Sam Allardyce
EXCLUSIVE: F1 heading for eastern revolution as new team emerges from Romania
Impressive Kurt Zouma may save Chelsea millions by replacing John Terry
- 1 'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
- 2 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 3 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 4 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
- 5 Kentucky gang rape: 15-year-old boy left in critical condition after sexual attack by group at party
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Are you looking for a...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £100,000: SThree: If you would like to work fo...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission £100k +: SThree: Trainee Recru...
£35000 - £40000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...