Now, the aftershocks.
Once the earthquake of Chris Froome’s adverse analytical result for salbutamol hit, the aftershocks quickly followed. It’s the inevitable result that happens when the most dominant stage racer of our time goes over the limit for a restricted substance by 100% while winning a grand tour.
It’s only been three days since the announcement and you can see the cracks and fissures spreading throughout the sport. People are shaken, riders are angry, the UCI is under fire, everyone is lawyering up, the Giro organizers are afraid, another team manager questions a double standrard, sponsors shake their head, the fate of a WorldTour team is debated, a career hangs in the balance and cycling fans all over the globe collectively ask “Must we really go through this again?”
Sadly, I’m afraid the answer is yes.
Shockwave: Katusha rider Tony Martin, an outspoken advocate for clean cycling, calls it a “scandal” and wonders what backroom deals are already being cut by Team Sky’s lawyers and the UCI. Shades of Armstrong working with Verbruggen and McQuaid to beat doping tests.
Shockwave: Brain Copeland, team manager of Bahrain-Merida, wonders why Team Sky didn’t immediately suspend Froome as, in his opinion, most teams would have done. Like Martin, he questions the preferential treatment Sky receives and worries about how the UCI is handling the issue.
Shockwave: Giro organizer Mauro Vegni is already having a horrible deja vu moment. He’s afraid if Froome is able to ride and win the Italian grand tour, he’ll be stripped of the title later just like Alberto Contador after his clenbuterol debacle. He also fears for the reputation of the Giro d’Italia and all the negative press the race will receive while Froome’s doping case drags through the UCI and probably the Court for Arbitration in Sports.
Shockwave: Team Sky’s existence is now suddenly up for debate. The dominant and massively funded squad seemed invincible but what happens when their four time Tour de France winner is suspended by the UCI and then dropped from the squad based on their zero tolerance policy for doping violations? This weeks Disney-21st Century Fox deal further complicates the finances and funding of the team, as ownership passes from Sky to 21st Century Fox in the United States.
Shockwave: Besides Peter Sagan, Froome is the biggest stars in the sport of pro cycling. What happens when an athlete, who has been insistent about clear cycling and doing things the correct, ethical way, now appears as yet another sign that cycling can’t ever escape the dark cloud of doping? His name is now, rightly or wrongly, linked to Armstrong and Operation Puerto and every other dark and sundry doping stay in cycling.
Shockwave: the reopening of the Wiggins-Froome bad blood wound. This acrimonious relationship goes back to the 2010 Tour de France, when Wiggins felt betrayed by his fast-climbing teammate Froome. That turned into a war of words between the two riders and the two wives. It continued in print with the publication of Wiggins’ autobiography My Time. It reared its ugly head again with Team SKy’s sloppy and questionable handle of the Wiggins “Jiffy bag” investigation — which by implication for Froome, suggested that Sky was unethical and willing to exploit any grey area including TUE abuse. Today we learned that Wiggins’ wife Cath calling out Froome as a “slithering reptile.” Froome will suffer the consequences and the loss of benefit of doubt based on Sky’s less than stellar explanations for Wiggins’ TUE manipulation and the Jiffy bag controversy.
Shockwave: loss of credibility from cycling fans around the world. Lawyer up, said one critic, on what is expected to be a brutal, ugly, time-consuming and contentious legal battle for Froome’s reputation and career and Sky’s existence. This could take six months to a year to resolve, impacting Froome’s Giro and Tour plans and creating a shit storm over every race on the calendar that Froome takes part in while awaiting a verdict.
It’s the ultimate kick in the face for fans who had finally reached the point where they could go to a party where someone challenged them about doping in pro cycling and they could genuinely say, “I really think it’s gotten a lot better.” That answer has just been erased.
These aren’t even all the shockwaves that will continue to rock the sport of cycling. I cannot make a claim that Froome is dirty or clean and after all these years, that’s a terrible thing to say.
Flip side: it’s looks like Geraint Thomas will be re-named captain of the Sky Giro d’Italia squad. The Froome double is dead.