Comment: Armchair analysts risk tearing Chris Froome’s reputation to shreds

The morning after the night before. Little more than 12 hours after recording the biggest win of his career, the hangover has begun for Chris Froome.

The second rest day offers little opportunity for the leader of the Tour de France to relax or soak up the magnitude of his victory on Mont Ventoux, before refocusing ahead of the final six stages of the race.

Instead, Team Sky’s rest day press conference is dogged by questions about doping and Froome is forced to defend his position as champion elect.

Armchair analysts risk tearing Chris Froome’s reputation to shreds

“It is just quite sad that we are sitting here a day after the biggest victory of my life, quite an historic win, talking about doping,” said Froome.

“My team-mates and I have slept on volcanoes to get ready for this, we have been away from home for months training together, working hard to get here. Here I am being accused of being a cheat and a liar, and that is not cool.

“I don’t know about that other stuff [doping]. I know what I have done to get here and I am extremely proud of what I have done. Lance cheated, I’m not cheating. End of story.”

Healthy cynicism is just that – and after years of being cheated by the so-called stars of the sport, cycling fans are entitled to raise an eyebrow at each ‘unbelievable’ performance, and journalists free to ask questions on their behalf.

But much of the criticism of Froome is based on the flawed comparison of data – of climbing times and VAM (average ascent speed) – and is nothing more than speculation. A rider’s reputation is being torn to shreds by armchair analysts.

There are too many variables for any comparison between Froome and, say, Lance Armstrong to be accurate: the length (and position in the race) of the stage itself, weather conditions, road surface and wind direction (Mont Ventoux is notoriously windy) to name a few. Andre Greipel’s leadout man, Greg Henderson, tweeted after the stage that he was “helped” up the climb by a generous tailwind.

The trouble for Team Sky, and  for Dave Brailsford in particular, is that they are trying to prove a negative. How do you prove a rider is not doping? The team’s refusal to publicly release Froome’s data has fuelled the fire –  armchair analysts will have a field day – but Brailsford has touted the idea of working closer with the World Anti-Doping Agency to end speculation.

“We are thinking very hard of the optimum way of proving that we are not doping,” he said at the team’s press conference.

“We have been thinking about the biological passport and how that works, with a panel of experts who get all the blood data from everybody and they evaluate that.

“But, theoretically, the biological passport should be blood value, weight, power – it should be the whole picture of that individual, not just blood values.

“Maybe WADA could appoint an expert and they can have everything that we have got. They could come and live with us and have all of our information, they could see all of our data, they could have access to every single training file that we have got.”

Team Sky and Chris Froome are in an impossible position following the darkest decade in the sport’s history, and Brailsford admitted he is “tired” of answering questions.

But while we’re at liberty to ask the questions, any accusation or acquittal should be based on fact not fiction.

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