London (AFP) — Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome rallied to the defense of embattled Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford on Monday.
Brailsford, the man behind Great Britain’s rise as an Olympic cycling superpower, has been under intense scrutiny but has insisted he will not resign from his Sky post despite being engulfed in rows over both doping and sexism.
British Cycling was already reeling from revelations it mishandled the drug records of star rider Bradley Wiggins when Brailsford was labeled “untouchable” in a leaked review published Friday of how the national governing body handled sexism allegations against a leading coach.
Froome’s relative silence had led to suggestions he was trying to distance himself from Brailsford as the likes of Sky teammate Geraint Thomas offered their support.
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But a statement issued Monday saw Froome, the Tour de France champion in 2013, 2015, and 2016, offer his backing to Brailsford:
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 7 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.
Brailsford, speaking at the Tirreno-Adriatico race in Italy, told CyclingNews.com last week he had no intention of standing down.
“No. My thoughts are about what’s good for the team and what’s right,” he said. “It’s important to make sure that you can look at yourself and say that there has been no wrongdoing.
“I’m confident of that,” added Brailsford.
Brailsford had previously accepted mistakes were made but said earlier this month: “There is a fundamental difference between process failures and wrongdoing. Our commitment to anti-doping has been a core principle of Team Sky since its inception. Our mission is to race and win clean, and we have done so for eight years.”
British anti-doping authorities are investigating Sky and British Cycling over a mysterious package delivered to the now retired Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion, at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné.
Questions have also been asked over three therapeutic use exemptions or TUEs, granted to the five-time Olympic champion.
It has been alleged that the package contained the banned corticosteroid triamcinolone.
Wiggins has faced repeated questions since Russian hackers Fancy Bears revealed documents in September which showed he received TUEs for triamcinolone.
TUEs are official waivers allowing athletes to use otherwise banned substances for the treatment of legitimate medical conditions.
Wiggins, however, has always denied any wrongdoing and insisted he needed the treatment to deal with a pollen allergy.
Also under fire for its medical record-keeping, British Cycling was blasted Friday for its “shocking and inexcusable” treatment of sexism allegations.
Shane Sutton, Brailsford’s longtime lieutenant and widely regarded as one of the world top cycling coaches, resigned as British Cycling’s technical director last April after rider Jess Varnish alleged he had told her to “go and have a baby” following her failure to qualify for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and her subsequent loss of public funding.
Later, an independent review was launched to examine British Cycling’s performance program — which has produced a host of top riders — led by British Rowing chair Annamarie Phelps.
According to The Daily Mail, the review said British Cycling looked to change the conclusions of grievance officer Alex Russell’s inquiry into Sutton in a bid to retain the highly regarded Australian.
“The actions of the British Cycling board in that regard are shocking and inexcusable,” the paper quoted the review as saying.