We watched the domination of TEAM SKY at this year´s Tour de France. And this after an emphatic Giro win, all achieved under the dark cloud of Chris Froome´s “positive test” for excessive Salbutamol. All this has really opened a Pandora´s box in the world of cycling. You must feel though, that despite the scandalous revelation of Froome´s abnormal result by the French press, TEAM SKY have played this one badly. What Brits see as playing by the book, is seen as arrogance in Europe. And today´s rest day press conference by Brailsford, essentially blaming the French people is not going to help the situation. So, let´s try and put this all into perspective.
The Weight of History
What can be described as old school cycling nations, such as France, Italy and Spain, have always viewed TEAM SKY with suspicion. Almost every dominant team in cycling´s history has been tainted in some way. It is unlikely that argument will ever go away. So,instead, let´s focus on the last couple of months.
The PR Disaster
Froome gave an excessive test for a non-banned substance, and the result, should have been kept confidential during the clarification process. But, it didn´t as the French press leaked it. TEAM SKY, despite being in the right to protest have handled the PR very badly indeed. The result of this has been booing, and the odd unsavoury incident on the road during the Tour. TEAM SKY could have, and above all should have realised that protesting the leak was futile. Much better would have been a clear interpretation of what happened. Perhaps a long interview with Brailsford, or indeed him and Froome would have been a good idea. TEAM SKY must realise that this constant war of words against everybody else, the siege mentality, is really working against them. Engaging with their doubters, even if they cannot convince them, must be a better strategy.
And set against this, are the two actual positive tests that have emerged in the last month or so. Jaime Rosón, who signed for Movistar this year, is now banned for biological passport abnormalities. This occurred during his tenure with Caja Rural in January 2017. Confidentiality, sadly lacking in the Froome case, enabled him to sign for the World Tour team. And just this week antoher positive for growth hormone Ivan Merino a rider from BURGOS-BH. This pro-continental team is going to ride it´s first ever grand tour at this year´s Vuelta de España. These two cases have pretty much slipped under the radar, particularly outside the cycling fraternity. This has to be seen as double standards. Continentals assume TEAM SKY is doping, and continental teams are getting caught doing it.
A bit savvier PR from TEAM SKY, rather than circling the wagons could be the way forward. And let´s hope when the Vuelta passes through Galicia in early September that we won´t see the unsavoury scenes that have infolded in France during the past week.