Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford stepped in to take the burden of doping speculation off the shoulders of Chris Froome as the topic refused to go away at the Tour de France.
Immediately upon taking the yellow jersey with his dramatic attack late on stage eight to Ax 3 Domaines, Froome was asked to assure the watching public that he was racing clean, to which the 28-year-old responded: “100 per cent, 100 per cent.”
But there were further questions after he retained his race lead on stage nine to Bagneres-de-Bigorre on Sunday, and the issue dominated the early part of Sky’s rest day press conference in La Baule yesterday.
Froome was asked about his relationship with former Team Sky doctor Geert Leinders, who left the team at the end of last season at the same time as Sky introduced a zero-tolerance policy with regards to those linked to doping. Leinders was later investigated for his role with the Rabobank team.
While Froome was calmly saying he had little to do with the Belgian, Brailsford reached for the microphone. “The reality is that the thing is my responsibility. I’ll take that squarely on the chin, it’s something I’ll always regret,” he said of Leinders’ hiring.
“It allowed people the licence to ask these questions of Chris now, but it’s not his fault. I made an error of judgment, quite frankly. When someone looks you in the eye and lies to you... I’m pretty angry about it.”
While Sir Bradley Wiggins often lost his temper amid repeated interrogation on the topic during last year’s Tour, Froome was prepared for the questions.
“Given the history of cycling people are going to ask questions because there are great performances which have been linked to doping in the past and now we’re bearing the brunt of those questions,” Froome said. “But the sport has moved on and I know what I am doing is right.
“I know the stage I won two days ago will never be stripped from the records. Outside of that, I don’t know what else I can do.”