Chris Froome has publicly given his backing to Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford, who last week said he would not resign despite the ongoing furore over issues including the mystery package delivered to former team doctor Richard Freeman at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné.
A week ago, most of Team Sky’s riders – but not Froome – took to Twitter to express their support of Brailsford.
It was subsequently reported that initially, the team had planned to publish a letter signed by all riders pledging their backing of him, but had to rethink those plans since Froome would not be among them.
In a statement released today, however, Froome gave his unequivocal support to Brailsford, whom he said “has created one of the best sports teams in the world. Without Dave B, there is no Team Sky.”
He 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."
In December, Brailsford told a House of Commons select committee that is investigating doping in sport that the mystery Dauphiné package contained the decongestant Fluimucil, which is not banned, destined for Sir Bradley Wiggins.
But his answer failed to satisfy MPs in the absence of a ‘paper trail’ with the select committee’s chair, Damian Collins, saying that Team Sky’s reputation had been “left in tatters.”
Earlier this month UK Anti-doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead, giving evidence as part of the same investigation, raised concerns about the amount of the corticosteroid triamcinolone ordered by Team Sky, which Wiggins took under a therapeutic use exemption ahead of major races including the 2012 Tour de France which he won, with Froome runner-up.
Sapstead said the quantity ordered could not be explained by the issue to a single rider of a TUE, which allows athletes to take drugs that would ordinarily be banned provided there is a genuine medical reason to do so.
Last week, Team Sky published a detailed response to the criticism, acknowledging that “mistakes were made” while insisting that the medicine in the Dauphiné package was Fluimucil and refuting Sapstead’s comments regarding the triamcinolone.
Team Sky chairman Graham McWilliam tweeted last week that both its board and its headline sponsor were “100 per cent” behind Brailsford.
Brailsford came under further pressure on Friday after it was reported that the independent review into British Cycling ordered by UK Sport and due to be published next month described him as “untouchable” when he was performance director of the Great Britain Cycling Team.
Froome’s statement is published in full below.
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.
It was published following a weekend in which Team Sky won Paris-Nice for the fifth time in six years after Sergio Henao held off a challenge from Alberto Contador on yesterday’s final stage, just as Geraint Thomas had done 12 months ago.
Sir Bradley Wiggins kicked off Team Sky’s run of success in the week-long French stage race in 2012, with Richie Porte taking the overall in 2013 and 2015.
Only Carlos Betancur has managed to break the British WorldTour team’s stranglehold on the race, the Colombian, now with Movistar, winning the 2014 edition when he was riding for AG2R-La Mondiale.
Froome, who lives in Monaco, a few kilometres east along the Cote d'Azur from Nice, saw some of yesterday's race first-hand while out on a training ride, posting a photo from the roadside to Twitter.
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) March 12, 2017
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.