Takes a sinner to know a sinner?
That’s perhaps an unfair observation but if there’s any cheater in pro cycling that knows what Chris Froome is potentially in for after his failed test for salbutamol, it’s Lance Armstrong.
The shit-storm might be colossal.
While Armstrong’s long and dirty resume is profoundly different from Froome’s double-over-the-limit dose of an asthma med, the fallout shares from similarities. As we wait for legal resolution and a possible ban, possible loss of Vuelta title and possible team expulsion — a wait that could push into the Tour de France — things could get extremely ugly.
“He could be completely exonerated and he is tarnished forever. Damage is done,” Armstrong said during his Stages podcast. “But, come next July, when this all gets cleaned up, it is already unpleasant for him, this is going to be complete mayhem and I know exactly what that fucking feels like. And it ain’t any fun.”
Froome is looking at a minimum of six months of no-fun, full on misery. And no matter how impressive his mental focus and emotional strength, it’s difficult to think he won’t suffer physically if he insists on attempting his Giro-Tour double. Our feeling is he has no idea how much this will wear on him, day in, day out. It’s a psychological weight that will sap his motivation and drain his energy. (Which is why Geraint Thomas has a 50-50 shot at being Sky’s captain in France.)
There’s no argument that the doping and ethical questions hanging over Froome will remove whatever Giro “fun” there might be, even if he should win a title that might later be stripped. It will be the Uber-story of the Italian grand tour and will darken and damage every conversation about the sport.
Should Froome insist of riding the Tour de France, then Armstrong’s choice of words is dead-on. There will be “complete mayhem,” the kind of intense scrutiny and super-charged rhetoric that only come with Le Tour.
If you think Sky Boss David Brailsford has a thin skin and bellicose attitude, wait until France. If you’ve been impressed with Froome’s even keel personality, wait until you see him crack under the bright interrogation lights at the Tour. “It ain’t any fun” would be the understatement of the year.
Froome will find himself getting the Donald Trump treatment from the cycling media. He will wake up every morning to a negative press that doubts every word coming out of his mouth. That’s an ugly and draining place to be when you’re an athlete pursuing an exceptionally difficult goal of winning the Giro and Tour back to back and joining the legendary club of five time Tour winners.
The Giro will be misery and the Tour will be mayhem. Even if Froome beats the odds and wins his legal case on his adverse finding for salbutamol, he’s already lost his reputation forever. Armstrong is correct in that assessment. A sad and nuclear outcome for too many puffs on an inhaler.