Former Team Sky coach Bobby Julich has said concerns about Chris Froome are “idiotic,” after Froome’s name was mentioned in the Richard Freeman tribunal.
Earlier this week, the ongoing medical misconduct tribunal heard that Shane Sutton had raised concerns about Froome’s relationship with Julich in 2012, during a Team Sky anti-doping shake-up.
Julich, who left Team Sky in 2012 after admitting he used EPO during his racing career, has now spoken to The Times defending Froome.
Dr Richard Freeman’s hearing, which is investigating claims Dr Freeman ordered testosterone patches to be administered to an athlete, heard evidence that in 2012 Team Sky wanted to address potential links to doping within the team, which caused team boss Sir Dave Brailsford and Dr Steve Peters to carry out interviews with staff.
Staff were also asked to sign a declaration that they had not been involved in doping, with anyone confessing to using performance enhancing drugs being asked to leave the team.
The process resulted in the departure of key team staff like Steven De Jongh and coach Julich.
Sutton, who was then working as Brailsford’s deputy, was also interviewed as part of the process and was invited to share any other concerns he had about doping in the team with Brailsford and Peters, with the Australian then referencing Froome “going to Italy on a motorbike” and his relationship with Julich, who Froome had sought advice from to improve his time trialling.
Julich, a former team-mate of Lance Armstrong, told The Times this week: “I was Chris’s coach for two years at Sky.”
“The motorbike trip to Italy, I can explain. In fact, you’ll understand it’s idiotic to think there was anything suspicious about it when I tell you.”
Julich said that in 2011 he was based in Monaco training Richie Porte while Froome was living in Italy and that Froome was not expected to get a contract extension at the end of the season.
Froome then contacted Julich to say he was moving to Monaca and he moved all his belongings in a truck, and then rode his motorbike from Italy to Monaco, Julich said.
Julich added: “After that [Froome] got his contract and I am so proud of what he has gone on to achieve, because I know what it took to get there.”
As part of Team Sky’s anti-doping crackdown, Julich said he knew he was going to be asked to sign a declaration saying he had never doped and that he was going to lose his job.
He added it was “the toughest day of his career” but that he didn’t want his past doping to impact on young riders.
On Sutton’s concerns, The Times reported there was no further detail and no suggestion that Froome had been involved in any doping.
Sutton’s concerns are believed to have been investigated at the time, but no evidence of wrongdoing was found.
Ineos Grenadiers, formerly known as Team Sky, has declined to comment on the evidence and Froome has not responded to the story.
Freeman has admitted 18 of the 22 charges against him, but denies the banned substance was ordered for an athlete to dope, instead claiming he was “bullied” into ordering the testosterone by Shane Sutton to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. Sutton denies this.
The tribunal continues.