Tour de France

Clean athletes must be protected, says Team Sky’s Brailsford as he backs Russia ban

Tour de France team chief has had to battle claims Chris Froome doped

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 July, 2016, 9:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 July, 2016, 11:06am

Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford expressed his support for an Olympic ban against Russia on Tuesday by insisting that the protection of clean athletes is imperative.

Speaking during the Tour de France rest day, Brailsford answered a question about the possibility of the entire Russian delegation being banned for next month’s Olympic Games in Rio.

And the 52-year-old, whose Sky leader Chris Froome is in control of the ongoing Tour de France, suggested he supported such a move.

“From the team’s point of view the fundamental issue – and having worked in the Olympic environment for many, many years – is that clean athletes need to be protected,” said Brailsford.

“Clean athletes work very hard to go to the biggest stages to compete and they need to do so with the full knowledge that everything that needs to be done to allow them to have a level playing field when they compete [is being done].

“If we start from the basis of protecting clean athletes, then the rest is pretty obvious in terms of what you need to do.”

Froome himself has come under intense suspicion over the last three years since winning his first of two Tour titles in 2013, with many convinced he did not do so clean.

In 2013 he was bombarded with questions about doping after a devastating attack on a summit finish at Ax 3 Domaines that put him in charge of the race.

Last year, a similar attack on another uphill finish to Pierre Saint-Martin, saw Froome forced to bat away questions about the use of a motorised bicycle.

But this year he’s been largely spared such unpleasant scrutiny, despite being again well on his way to a third Tour victory.

Brailsford believes his charge has put the sceptics in their place once and for all.

“I think it’s pretty important what Chris did at the end of last year, going to the lab and putting himself up for testing independently of us and the team, and I think the numbers told a significant story,” Brailsford said.

“People certainly aren’t asking the same questions as they have done in the past. It’s difficult to ask for VAM and power data if you’re going downhill and dropping everybody, which is what we saw.”

Brailsford also claimed his team had been tested 13 times since the Tour started by authorities trying to catch drug-takers.

Froome, however, hasn’t convinced everyone and was even jeered when he collected the race leader’s yellow jersey following a controversial finish to the 12th stage on Mont Ventoux.

He originally seemed to have lost time, and the race lead, after breaking his bike in the final kilometre after a crash with a motorcycle.

But race organisers took a decision to reinstate him as leader after deciding he had been unfairly penalised by a situation out of his control.

And Froome said there was no difference in him being jeered by some fans to similar incidents between rival football teams.

“The fans have been great, the fans are what make this race,” he said.

“For sure there are pockets of people standing together who boo and they’re very loud, but you go to a football game and some [fans] who don’t like the other team, they will boo with other fans.

“It’s sport, it’s unfortunate and it doesn’t look good for the sport, but at the same time there are thousands upon thousands of people who do come out there and they’re supporting all the riders and supporting the race – and that’s amazing to see.”