04302017

Chris Froome apologises over Team Sky controversy

Chris Froome with Sir Dave Brailsford

Chris Froome (left) joined Team Sky in 2010

Britain’s three-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome has apologised for the way Team Sky has handled questions over its record on doping.

But Team Sky’s leading rider stressed the importance to the outfit of under-fire boss Sir Dave Brailsford.

UK Anti-Doping is investigating a ‘mystery package’ sent for Team Sky’s former rider Sir Bradley Wiggins at a race in 2011.

Brailsford last week said he would not resign over the package.

“Without Dave B, there is no Team Sky,” said Froome, who added it would “take time for faith to be restored”.

Brailsford has said he was told the package contained a legal decongestant – Fluimucil – but the team has been unable to provide records to back up the claim.

Team Sky has since accepted “mistakes were made” over how medical records relating to the package were kept but denied breaking anti-doping rules.

Froome added: “I would like to apologise for this on behalf of myself and the other riders of Team Sky who feel passionately about our sport and winning clean.”

A parliamentary select committee into anti-doping has been hearing evidence about the package, with committee chairman Damian Collins MP saying that Team Sky’s reputation had been “left in tatters”.

Dr Richard Freeman, who received the package for Wiggins at the Criterium du Dauphine, did not attend the last hearing because of ill health.

The committee has also heard evidence about Wiggins’ use of therapeutic use exemptions, or TUEs, which allow athletes to take otherwise-banned substances when there is a clear medical need.

Wiggins was granted a TUE to take anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone before the 2011 Tour de France, his 2012 Tour win and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

Wiggins’ TUEs were approved by British authorities and cycling’s world governing body the UCI, and there is no suggestion either he or Team Sky have broken any rules.

Last week several Team Sky riders – including Britain’s Geraint Thomas – tweeted their support for Brailsford, but Froome did not comment publicly at the time.

Thomas also said last week there were “still questions to be answered” and expressed his annoyance that “Freeman and Brad don’t seem to have the flak”.

Froome statement in full

“It disappoints me hugely to see the way in which Team Sky has been portrayed by the media recently. It does not reflect the support crew and the riders that I see around me.

“At the same time, I completely understand why people feel let down by the way in which the situation has been handled, and going forward we need to do better.

“I would like to apologise for this on behalf of myself and the other riders of Team Sky who feel passionately about our sport and winning clean. I believe in the people around me, and what we are doing.

“With respect to Dave Brailsford, he has created one of the best sports teams in the world. Without Dave B, there is no Team Sky.

“He has supported me throughout the last seven years of my career and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities and the experiences I’ve had. By his own admission, mistakes have been made, but protocols have been put in place to ensure that those same mistakes will not be made again.

“I know it will take time for faith to be restored, but I will do my utmost to ensure that happens, along with everyone else at Team Sky.”

Analysis

BBC sports editor Dan Roan

This may appear to be Chris Froome belatedly backing his under-fire boss Sir Dave Brailsford, but read the careful wording closely and it is clear that his support is very, very qualified. This is different from the “100% backing” messages that several of Froome’s team-mates gave to the Team Sky principal last week.

Instead, Froome seems to be taking a more pragmatic stand, making the point that unless Brailsford stays, Sky’s sponsorship may cease, and the team could fold. This is how high the stakes have now become for one of the most successful professional teams in sport.

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