Cycling crisis: Chris Froome fails to back Dave Brailsford
Questions raised after Tour de France champion fails to join Team Sky's tweets of support for their under-fire boss
Christophe Ena / AFP
Team Sky's attempts to present a united front in the face of an escalating crisis appear to have backfired after triple Tour de France winner Chris Froome failed to back Sir Dave Brailsford amid rumours about his future as team principal.
With the team's reputation in "tatters" following a UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) investigation and a series of damaging sessions in front of the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, Cycling News website reports that riders are considering asking the coach to resign.
According to the site, with Brailsford "at the centre of a major controversy over the team's medical practices", several riders have "held discussions" over whether to ask him to step down.
"According to a source among the riders, the continued questions over the team's credibility have started to impact on performance," it says.
Following the claim, riders including Geraint Thomas and Luke Rowe took to Twitter to stand up for Brailsford - but the story soon took another twist when it was suggested they may have been following team orders.
Couldn't of said it better myself. I'm 100% behind Dave! https://t.co/hCwMSru3R2— Luke Rowe (@LukeRowe1990) March 6, 2017
"The crisis around Team Sky showed no signs of abating last night as riders were urged to tweet support for Sir Dave Brailsford," says Matt Dickinson in The Times. "But Chris Froome, the three-times Tour de France winner, was notable by his silence."
Tom Cary in the Daily Telegraph says riders had been urged to "show public support" amid fears that Team Sky faces "oblivion".
He adds: "Brailsford, the mastermind behind the enormous success of both British Cycling and Team Sky over the past decade, is under immense pressure following revelations concerning UK Anti-Doping’s drugs probe into both organisations."
Nicole Sapstead, the chief executive of Ukad, last week told MPs investigators had met "resistance" from Team Sky and British Cycling and they "could not establish the contents of the infamous Jiffy bag flown out to Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2011, and that there had been a shocking lack of medical record-keeping which raised worrying questions", adds the Telegraph.
Froome's failure to back his boss is the latest blow for Brailsford, who was urged to quit by William Fotheringham in The Observer on Sunday.
He argued the coach's position was "shaky" after it emerged Wiggins had used therapeutic use exemptions, became "untenable" when he was forced to address the issue of the Jiffy bag sent across Europe to Wiggins in 2011, and was now "impossible" after the events of the past week.
Fotheringham will not have been surprised by Froome's Twitter silence – he interviewed the cyclist in January and says "his backing for his boss did not even match that of a prime minister about to throw a chancellor to the men in suits".
Team Sky and British Cycling stripped of all credibility
The credibility of Team Sky and British Cycling is in "tatters" and its funding in doubt after another bruising day of evidence to the Culture Media and Sport select committee. During the session, UK Anti-Doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead revealed that the team had no records of what drugs were given to riders.
The day began with cycling coach Simon Cope, the man who transported the notorious jiffy bag apparently containing an over-the-counter medication halfway across Europe to Bradley Wiggins, joking that he sometimes fiddled his expenses.
Cope admitted he had no idea what was in the package and agreed that he had been "hung out to dry" by his superiors. But Sapstead, who has overseen a five-month investigation into Team Sky and British Cycling, is the "demolition agent" who destroyed the reputation of British Cycling and Team Sky, says William Fotheringham of The Guardian.
Yesterday's evidence was devastating. "By the end of an extraordinary session of damaging revelations, fraudulent expenses were the least of cycling's problems," says Matt Dickinson of The Times. "This became a horrendous afternoon when a doctor's professional reputation was battered, medical practices at British Cycling and Team Sky exposed as chaotic and compromised, and a new cloud of suspicion placed over the ethics of both organisations.
"And still Sir Bradley Wiggins was saying no comment even though he is the rider at the heart of it all, the cause of this storm with his three controversial injections for triamcinolone and the medical package delivered to him and Dr Richard Freeman in June 2011."
Team Sky's aim when it was set up in 2009 was to prove that cycling races could be won "clean", says Fotheringham of the Guardian. Against that backdrop, Sapstead said it was unfortunate that the team had no records of what medicines its doctor, Richard Freeman, administered to his athletes. The only documentation was on his laptop, which was stolen in 2014, she was told.
She described the situation as "odd". But "that was an understatement," says Fotheringham. "There have been no positive drug tests, so according to the letter of the law the mission has been achieved, but there has been a persistent, gradual erosion of the team's credibility."
Committee chairman Damian Collins said British Cycling and Team Sky's reputation was in "tatters" following the evidence of Cope and Sapstead.
And there could be repercussions. UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholl said the lack of record keeping at British Cycling and Team Sky was “shocking”. She threatened to withdraw funding for the next Olympic cycle "unless it gets its house in order", reports the Daily Telegraph.
"British Cycling's new chairman, Jonathan Browning, agreed with her that the evidence heard by MPs was 'unacceptable' and said his organisation would carry out a thorough review of its medical practices," adds the paper.
That may not be the end of it. There are claims the General Medical Council could also get involved as the absence of records breaches its guidelines.