The always-quotable Quickstep manager Patrick Lefevere was at it again today. This target: Chris Froome’s salbutamol debacle and the damage to pro cycling.
The salty Lefereve chose the perfect, real world, instant clarity analogy for explaining that Froome broke the rules and there’s no argument around it. Thanks to the Belgian, we now have an explanatory construct that provides all the illumination we’ll need for the next six months of darkness, legal obfuscation and physiological mumbo-jumbo.
“I was drinking two red wines, and now one whisky, and if I go out in my car and there’s an alcohol control, I will be positive,” said Lefevere. “If you do the control and they ask, ‘did you drink something?’ ‘Yes, two wines’. OK, you blow, positive. You should have known.”
Bingo. Froome and Team Sky can trot about 5000 pages of scientific arguments about how different people will process salbutamol differently in Spain, in August, at a stage race, on a rainy day, while dehydrated and with their tire pressure low. That will not alter the issue .00001%. “Two glasses of win, you blow positive. You should have known.”
In the end, we’re continually struck by two extremely well-chosen words that cyclingtips’ writer Caley Fretz used to sum up Froome’s Giro-Tour bid: greed and hubris. That was written before the salbutamol story hit but we find the two descriptors even more appropriate now.
Hubris is defined as “excessive pride or self-confidence; arrogance.” It describes Froome’s attempt to prove that while he doubled the acceptable limit of salbutamol, he followed all the rules, his conscience is clean, his reputation untarnished and he deserves no suspension or penalties. That is arrogance and misguided self-confidence.
In the last month, we’ve essentially witnessed the entire world of cycling — riders, former riders, team managers, grand tour organizers, scientists, physiologists, legal experts and anti-doping organizations all come to the same conclusion: given the circumstances and precedents, Froome has a near-impossible task proving his innocence and a ban is all but assured.
One would think that Froome would see the handwriting on the wall and accept the inevitable. However, he sees himself as being above the sport and no matter how damaging, he’d rather drag everyone through the mud for six months before losing his case.
There’s a time to simply accept the cards in your hand. Froome could simply say “I’m human, it was stage 18, my asthma was kicking up, I was so close to winning my first Vuelta after several near misses and I panicked. I took too many puffs and I went over.”
How refreshing that would be, right? (And just to be clear, we’re not stating that Froome cheated or didn’t cheat.)
The entire sport would thank him for his honesty and willingness to take a personal hit for the good of pro cycling. In gratitude, he’d receive a lighter, shorter suspension and he’d win his fifth Tour de France, joining a select group of legends. Seems like the smarter course of action, all the way around.
Froome could certainly benefit from advice from someone like Patrick Lefevere. You do the wine, you do the time.