Comment: The three-time Tour winner will be in the media’s sights when he returns to racing in Catalunya
Chris Froome will need to serve up something just as sensational as taking to his feet on Mont Ventoux in order to distract journalists from bombarding him with questions about jiffy bags and Team Sky’s ethical stance the next time he faces the press at the Volta a Catalunya towards the end of this month.
Froome, it should be underlined, is not implicated in the ongoing farrago that has beset Team Sky. Yet, when he returns to racing in Spain on March 20, the three-time Tour de France winner is guaranteed to be asked for his perspective on the affair and, more particularly, on the position of Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford.
To an extent, Froome has become accustomed to inquisitions of this type, although hitherto they’ve centred on questions about his own performances, rather than those of others.
In my experience, he’s always been upfront when answering and has, over recent seasons, become a respected spokesman for the sport and his fellow professionals.
Now, though, his own commitment to an ethical approach to racing has been compromised by some in the hierarchy of his own team. So how is Froome likely to respond?
It’s almost certain that he won’t dodge the questions that will come his way.
Last September, a day after Brailsford defended Sky’s use of TUEs and insisted his team had done nothing wrong, Froome posted a statement on his Twitter account urging WADA and the UCI to take urgent action on the use of medical exemptions within the sport.
“I know I have to abide by the rules but also go above and beyond that to set a good example both morally and ethically. It is clear the TUE system is open to abuse,” he wrote, adding: “I have never had a ‘win at all costs’ approach in this regard.
“I am not looking to push the boundaries of the rules. I believe this is something athletes need to take responsibility for themselves, until more stringent protocols can be put in place.”
However, since then, an affair that began as a result of documents leaked that same month by the Fancy Bear hackers’ group has escalated as a result of revelations made during ongoing parliamentary hearings.
In the latest instance, UKAD CEO Nicole Sapstead laid bare Sky’s slapdash approach to the keeping of medical records and that British Cycling had purchased significant amounts of the corticosteroid triamcinolone. At the end of the session, chair Damian Collins MP declared that, ‘The credibility of Team Sky and British Cycling is in tatters. They are in a terrible position.’
With many already questioning Brailsford’s position at Team Sky, Froome is sure to be asked for his opinion on his boss, whose commitment to doing “the right thing regardless of being seen [to do so] or not” now has a hollow look.
With his own credibility his priority, Froome will, almost inevitably, have to step even further away from Brailsford than he did with his statement on TUEs.
As a consequence, Brailsford’s position at the head of Team Sky could become untenable.