Rogers move still rankles for Sky
Changing team ... Michael Rogers, right, has joined Saxo-Tinkoff after leaving the British Sky team. Photo: Getty Images
MICHAEL ROGERS'S switch from the British Sky team to Saxo-Tinkoff was one of the surprise off-season moves in world cycling, and continues to raise eyebrows at the Tour Down Under in Adelaide.
Rogers, 32, was not in the peloton for the first stage of the opening round of this year's world tour. Instead, he was in the Canary Islands, training with new teammates.
The Canberran is looking ahead to a year in which his main objective will be to try and help Saxo-Tinkoff leader Alberto Contador win a third Tour de France; a similar role to the one he performed at Sky in helping Bradley Wiggins break through for his Tour de France win last year.
But Rogers's departure from Sky continues to baffle; especially considering how important he was to Wiggins and the team.
His move came just after Sky interviewed of all riders and staff, part of their zero-tolerance policy with past illegal drug use. Those interviewed had to sign letters pledging no drug history. Failure to sign meant ejection from the team.
Sky's head coach Shane Sutton said in December Rogers's departure had ''nothing whatsoever'' to do with doping.
The team's controversial policy had an immediate impact. Bobby Julich, a Sky specialist trainer, admitted to doping as a rider and left, as did sports directors Steven De Jongh (who admitted to past doping and has joined Saxo-Tinkoff) and Sean Yates (health reasons).
Sky said Rogers's move was his decision and nothing to do with its zero-tolerance policy. Rogers admitted in 2006 that a year earlier, as a T-Mobile rider, he had been trained by the now banned Italian doctor Michele Ferrari, though he stressed that drugs were never mentioned.
When Rogers's Ferrari link was revealed he was told to cut his ties, which he says he did after the 2006 Tour, where he placed ninth.
Sky's position that his decision had nothing to do with its zero-tolerance policy was maintained at the Tour Down Under on Tuesday. Asked if Rogers's switch to Saxo-Tinkoff was related to that policy, Sky sports director Kurt Arvesen told Fairfax Media: ''As far as I know, no … no.
''I think [his move to Saxo-Tinkoff] was his own choice, actually. I think we wanted to keep him, but he wanted to look for other opportunities.''
Saxo-Tinkoff was a surprising choice considering the doping history of Contador and owner Bjarne Rijs, who doped to win the 1996 Tour.
Rogers could not be contacted for comment, but showed in October that he is aware of the damage of perception when asked, amid the fallout of the US Anti-Doping Agency's reasoned decision into banning drug cheat Lance Armstrong for life, if he wanted to change his view on Ferrari.
Rogers was not implicated in any of the charges against Armstrong, but he was named in the sworn affidavit of former Armstrong teammate Levi Leipheimer as having attended high-altitude training camps at Teneriffe, Spain, in May and June 2005 with Ferrari, who was also charged by USADA.
''I certainly regret [it],'' Rogers said of his association with Ferrari. ''I can understand it tainted, maybe, my reputation; but it's an error I made. I have to accept that.
''But I can absolutely guarantee it was only [for training] … he hardly had time for me. He had a lot of riders.''