Geraint Thomas: I believe Chris Froome but I'm racing my own Tour de France
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) has publicly come forward to back his team leader Chris Froome after it was confirmed that the four-time Tour de France winner had recorded an adverse finding in an anti-doping test at the Vuelta a Espana in September.
While Froome’s future remains uncertain, Thomas has also told Cyclingnews that he will be given freedom to race for himself at the Tour de France and that if Froome is suspended then the Welshman may lead the team.
A urine sample collected at the Vuelta on stage 18 (September 7) found that Froome had double the legal amount of salbutamol in his system. The adverse analytical finding (AAF) leaves Froome not just fighting for his Vuelta title but also his reputation and his Team Sky career. If found guilty of doping, Froome could face a two-year ban.
Thomas was speaking exclusively to Cyclingnews from the Team Sky training camp in Mallorca, Spain, and said that he believed that his team leader was innocent and that Froome would not have deliberately broken the rules.
" For a start, I trust him. I don’t think that he would do anything to try and cheat. It’s just a difficult situation. I don’t know the facts that they’re going to use to argue their case but it’s hard and being who he is I can’t see them going lightly on him. I back him 100 per cent. I don’t think he’s a cheat. I’m sad for him, and his reputation but also for the team as well. That’s the main thing. It’s another thing against the team but I do trust that he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to cheat."
Froome has yet to submit a full defence but it is understood that he declared his salbutamol use on his declaration forms before being tested at the Vuelta. According to Team Sky, the rider upped his dose of asthma medication at the race on the advice of one of the team’s medical staff but in a Sunday Times piece released at the weekend it was put forward that Froome used the medication - via an inhaler - even after stage 18 in a bid to subdue his coughing while conducting television interviews.
There are still a number of unanswered questions; not least whether Team Sky would dismiss Froome should he be handed a ban. The team introduced their own form of zero tolerance in 2012 in light of the USADA report into Lance Armstrong, and while the policy is flawed, it would raise the question over whether Froome still had a place on the team if found sanctioned. For Thomas, the issue is relatively clear.
" If the team back him and trust him now then they should stick with him. That’s what they’ve decided now, so I don’t see the point in backing him and then if he does have a ban just fobbing him off. But I’m a bike rider and I have to abide by the decisions that the bosses in Team Sky make."
Thomas had the chance to see Froome at the team camp. The two were both at the Team Sky hotel when the failed test was made public. All the riders received a brief text message from the management before an email with more details was circulated. Thomas came down for breakfast that morning having only scanned the email but he soon sat down with Brailsford to discuss the matter. The Welshman also spoke to Froome, albeit briefly, and could see that the recent news over the failed test had taken a toll.
" We talked briefly. It’s the first time I’ve seen him and he’s quiet. In the past he’s been at the Tour and had things thrown at him, and had people accuse him of things. He takes that in his stride but this is another level to that. It’s on his mind, and we’ve talked, not really about the details but I’ve said that I’ve backed him. You can see that it’s affected him but it’s going to, something like that."