Cycling rebuilds but doubts linger over doping


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The Independent Online

Chris Froome has been the most affable of Tour de France champions, polite to a tee as he pedalled his way to glory on the Champs-Elysées at the weekend.

Only once did he snap and arguably with good reason as he fielded a barrage of questions awash with doping insinuations after riding to glory on the infamous climb up Mont Ventoux for his third stage victory of this year’s race. Froome quite succinctly summed it up when he said: “Lance Armstrong cheated. I’m not cheating. End of story.”

No rider from Team Sky has ever tested positive for drugs, and the team cleared its ranks of riders and members of staff with any past doping question marks over them before this season. In addition, team principal Sir Dave Brailsford has offered the team’s physiological data to be reviewed by an independent World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) panel in order to clear the suspicion surrounding the team.

Such a move has been welcomed by Wada but there is still scepticism towards a sport that has been arguably the most synonymous with doping in recent years. Wada president John Fahey sounded a positive note about cycling’s present and future but also warned that “you hold your breath with cycling a bit each year”.

In his line of work Fahey has grown understandably sceptical of sporting cheats. But it was cycling which essentially prompted the agency’s formation in Lausanne in November 1999 – just 16 months after the Festina Affair and the year of Lance Armstrong’s first Tour victory, one of seven that has since been expunged from the record books.

Explaining his reticence at fully praising the sport, Fahey said: “Wada started because of the failure of the Tour de France year after year after year. People said enough is enough and a body was needed that could do something about it and all sports.

“Cycling was the catalyst for Wada in the late 90s. So with cycling, as with any sport, I never say that any sport has eliminated cheats. I say that I’m confident that they’re reducing the number of cheats but not that the battle will ever be won.”

In the past Wada has been at loggerheads with cycling’s governing body, the UCI, with Wada particularly scathing of the UCI’s approach to the fall-out of the Armstrong case, accusing it of being “deceitful” and “arrogant”.

Despite frayed relations, Fahey was quick to praise the UCI for its recent approach. “In the last few years cycling’s been much better,” he said. “I’ve said I think the UCI is making a real effort on biological passports for the top cyclists in the peloton. I think that’s a great thing to pick up the cheats and act as a deterrent.”