Multiple grand tour champion Chris Froome has spoken of the damage caused by cycling’s doping era on the modern-day sport.
Talking this weekend in an Instagram live chat with retired pro cricketer Kevin Pietersen, Froome spoke of his confidence that the sport has “turned a page” and entered a clean new era, and his frustration that the modern generation still has to battle a wave of skepticism.
“We’re still having to justify ourselves,” Froome said. “It’s been at least 15 years, and we’re still talking about it. It did a lot of damage. That period has damaged the sport to a great extent but I really do believe that the sport has turned a page. I don’t think that I could have won the Tour de France four times if things hadn’t changed. The sport is now in a great place.”
“The authorities have introduced the biological passport since then and that had a huge impact,” he continued. “They’re so tight on the controls now. We have to register where we are every day of our lives so we can be tested. I think cycling is in a great place now.”
Froome and Team Ineos/Sky have dealt with their own fair share of doping accusations through the team’s Tour de France dominating history.
Froome raced to victories in the 2017 Vuelta and 2018 Giro under a dark cloud after being tested over the allowed limit for asthma drug salbutamol in late 2017. He was later cleared of doping, but was open in admitting how much of a drain defending himself had been as he prepared for the 2018 Tour, where he went on to finish third overall. Team Sky also battled doping suspicions in the Bradley Wiggins ‘jiffy bag’ scandal, the investigation for which was eventually dropped.
“It’s challenging with the negativity and always having to answer the same questions year in, year out to the skeptics, those who won’t believe any performance,” Froome said. “But at the same time, I think ‘what can we do?’ We just get on with it and we know that what we’re doing is right. We’ve nothing to hide.”
Froome is looking to equal the record of five Tour de France victories this year, a feat that would draw him level with Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault, and Miguel Indurain. The 34-year-old is on the comeback trail from his career-threatening crash at the Criterium du Dauphine 11 months ago, battering himself through huge training sessions in a fully-stocked home gym in Monaco.
The delay of the Tour by two months to late-August due to coronavirus has played into Froome’s hands, buying him extra training time. And the need to train indoors through lockdown has had little impact on his training.
“Some days I’m even doing up to six hours sitting on the stationary trainer – big days,” Froome said.
“Obviously I’m coming off the back of a big injury now as well. A lot of the training I’ve been doing up until this point has been indoors already, so it’s almost prepared me in a way for this whole lockdown period.”
Froome cited the improvement in training methods and technologies as the way that his generation of riders is able to set climbing times similar to those recorded through the doping era.
“The sport is now a hundred times cleaner, but we climb faster than they did at the time,” he said. “The best way to explain that is that we have evolved a lot in the areas of technology, nutrition, and training. We are better as athletes.”