David Walsh, the Irish journalist whose investigation of Lance Armstrong helped pave the way for the Texan’s lifetime ban from cycling, has said he has lost trust in Chris Froome as a result of the Team Sky rider’s adverse analytical finding for twice the permitted level of the anti-asthma drug, Salbutamol.
Walsh, author of the book Inside Team Sky, was embedded with the UCI WorldTour team for much of the 2013 season, a year in which the rider won the first of his four overall victories in the Tour de France.
In September, Froome added the Vuelta title, but Wednesday’s revelation that urine samples taken on Stage 18 of the Spanish race showed double the legal amount of Salbutamol has left him fighting to save that title and escape a ban.
Writing in today’s edition of The Sunday Times, Walsh, who has in the past defended Froome’s reputation, revealed that he had a “fraught, difficult” phone call with the rider on Friday.
He said that the affair “leaves him [Froome] with a question that will take some answering.”
Walsh wrote: “There is a threshold level and Froome exceeded that by 100 per cent.
“He has to explain how that amount of Salbutamol got into his body.
“If the authorities are not satisfied, he will be banned and stripped of his Vuelta a Espana title.
“The greater punishment will be to his reputation,” Walsh went on. “He will be seriously damaged. Four Tour de France victories diminished in one asterisk.”
He added: “The hardest thing about our conversation on Friday evening was telling him that I no longer trusted him in the way that I once did.”
On 20 September – the same day that Froome was notified of the adverse analytical finding – Walsh defended him on an Irish radio show.
He told the Irish broadcaster RTE: “I believe he's clean and I don't see any reason for not believing.
"The case against Chris Froome is powerful in so many ways, all it lacks is evidence.
"Make up your own mind. I'm making up mind and exercising my right to call this as I see it,” Walsh added.
Meanwhile, his former colleague at The Sunday Times, Irish ex-pro cyclist Paul Kimmage, highly critical in the past over Walsh’s defence of Froome and Team Sky, has written a scathing piece about the rider in today’s Sunday Independent.
AG2R-La Mondiale rider Romain Bardet, who finished this year’s Tour de France third overall behind Froome and Cannondale-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran, has also been speaking about the controversy.
He told AFP: “This is not good news for cycling. Pretty much everyone gets hit by something like this, cycling's credibility first and foremost.
"We really could have done without it. It's not something anyone can rejoice about.
“Let's hope that a swift and objective probe can clarify the facts and leave no doubts about what happened," Bardet added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.