Froome: I have never been offered triamcinolone at Team Sky
Tour de France winner distances himself from heart of UK Anti-Doping’s inquiry
Team Sky cyclist Chris Froome during tin the Tour De France last year. The cyclist is preparing to attempt a fourth tour victory next month. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images
The three-time Tour de France winner, Chris Froome, has stated categorically that he was not offered, nor administered, any of the 55 doses of the corticosteroid triamcinolone that were ordered by Team Sky between 2010 and 2013 and which remain part of an investigation by UK Anti-Doping into allegations of possible wrongdoing at the British racing team.
As he prepares to attempt a fourth Tour de France victory next month, Froome told the Guardian: “I can only speak about my experiences in the team at the time. I certainly haven’t been offered triamcinolone in the team.”
Asked if he had had any triamcinolone, he replied: “I haven’t, no.”
Asked if he had had any injections of triamcinolone from Team Sky, he again answered “no”.
Team Sky themselves confirmed the ordering of the triamcinolone in the wake of the revelation by the Ukad head, Nicole Sapstead, that far more of the drug had been obtained than would have been needed for the three injections taken by Bradley Wiggins in 2011, 2012 and 2013, injections cleared by the UCI through therapeutic use exemptions to combat pollen allergies.
That revelation and others in the wake of the questions over the contents of a Jiffy bag delivered to the team’s then doctor Richard Freeman at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011 are likely to dog Froome and Sky throughout the Tour, which starts in the German city of Düsseldorf on Saturday week. The Guardian understands that the Ukad inquiry continues after eight months.
Asked what had gone through his mind when the triamcinolone purchase was made public, Froome replied: “Honestly I haven’t given it much thought. It’s not something I’ve gone and done my own investigation on.
“I’ve been so focused on trying to get ready for July and I think the investigation has been happening in the background. I’ve been happy to let it be, let the professionals deal with that. My focus has been on July and getting ready for that.”
Firmly denied any wrongdoing
Later in the interview, he added: “I can only speak about my experience in the team. It hasn’t been my experience that triamcinolone has been handed around freely as has been suggested.”
Team Sky have firmly denied any wrongdoing, and at Sapstead’s appearance before MPs in March she made it clear that her agency had uncovered no evidence of such activity, while expressing her surprise that so much had been acquired without a paper trail to account for where it had ended up.
Sky stated: “Only a small proportion of this was administered to Team Sky riders. According to Dr Freeman, the majority was used in his private practice and to treat Team Sky and British Cycling staff.”
The Guardian put it to Froome that as a rider he is closely identified with Team Sky and that given the efforts he and the team have made to build an ethical reputation it seemed surprising for him to say the affair had not affected him. “I can’t really comment on who’s had what injuries or illness along the way. I don’t know those details. Those aren’t something I can account for myself – it hasn’t been something I’ve got involved in.”
In March, there were reports that Team Sky riders had been questioning whether the team’s head, Sir Dave Brailsford, should remain in post in the wake of the affair. Asked whether that had indeed been the case and whether he was one of the riders involved, Froome stated: “No. Dave has created this team and it is where it is as a result of that. It has been successful as a result of his leadership.”
Asked if he had faith in Brailsford’s running of Team Sky, he stated: “If I look at my experiences with Dave and the team, I don’t have any questions in that respect. I’ve had a successful relationship with Dave and the team that’s led to three Tour victories for me and the team. I’m not questioning that relationship. It’s a good working relationship.”
However, questioned further about the affair, Froome conceded that he and Brailsford had their differences. “I think it’s also safe to say that sometimes Dave and I don’t agree on absolutely everything. That’s only natural. When you have a team of 100 guys you are not going to agree with everyone about everything. It’s an opportunity to challenge each other, to improve and work better in a lot of different ways.”
In the wake of speculation that he might leave Sky for the BMC team, Froome was adamant that the only person he had spoken to from the Swiss squad was his former team-mate and friend Richie Porte, who he named as his key rival for this year’s Tour.
He added he is currently in the process of negotiating a new deal with Sky, where he is contracted until the end of 2018.
Asked if he feared that the Jiffy bag saga would provide an unhappy backdrop to the next few weeks, and that he would end up under pressure, Froome said: “I will be asked questions about it in the same way that you are asking me now. It’s so far from where my focus has been that it’s not something that rates highly on my agenda right now.
“I know there is an investigation and I would like to think that they are doing everything possible to get to the bottom of it but in terms of my focus and the rest of us out on the road, we’ve got a bike race to worry about.”
Team Sky make much of “lines”, which feature heavily on their race kit – white this July as opposed to their usual black.
There is a metaphorical line here, however: the line of defence that the Jiffy bag saga was in the past, that it is being looked into and the focus should be on the bike race that lies ahead. The next four weeks, when Froome, Brailsford and Sky will be in the spotlight daily, will show how well that line will hold. – (Guardian service)