Sir Dave Brailsford has launched a staunch defence of himself and Team Sky ahead of the start of the Tour de France.
The team principal has endured a torrid few months, with many questioning the credibility of British cycling after a string of unsavoury revelations.
Team Sky have been the dominant outfit in the Tour de France in recent years and on Sunday will embark on their attempt to win a fifth yellow jersey in six years.
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Sir Bradley Wiggins won the first of those in 2012 but he and Team Sky have subsequently been heavily criticised for their use of therapeutic use exemptions. In December Brailsford was called before a Culture, Media and Sport select committee to answer doping questions and explain the contents of a package delivered to Wiggins before the first of his two wins at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2011. The package was a "decongestant", explained Brailsford, who has always emphatically denied any wrongdoing. "I've been involved in this sport a long time, and I've tried to do it absolutely in the way that I've always thought it should be done," he said. "I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I'm proud of cycling in Britain, I'm proud of everything that's been achieved, I'm proud of these guys, proud of Team Sky. I love it, I'm going nowhere."
Nonetheless, Team Sky will be under greater scrutiny than ever at this year's Tour after what The Guardian describes as "eight months of scandal including a UK Anti-Doping inquiry". That was prompted by revelations that Team Sky had acquired 55 doses of the corticosteroid triamcinolone over three seasons, yet were unable to provide the paperwork to account for its use. “We’ve always been under more scrutiny than other teams," said Brailsford. "We’ve raced in France this year, we’ve raced abroad, there’s been a very positive reception on the roadside. That’s how I would see it.”
Tour champion Chris Froome, who is chasing his fourth Tour de France title this year, said he had "no trust issues" with Team Sky but said he understood why some cycling fans may be sceptical. "I do sympathise with people who have had their doubts because I've had my doubts as well about performances post the early 2000s," said Froome, who has yet to win a race this season. "I can see where those questions are coming from [but] I don't have any trust issues."
Froome has been called a doper by French cycling fans in recent years and in 2015 he had urine thrown over him during the Tour. "Certainly I've learned to grow a thicker skin over the years and I understand where it's coming from, given cycling's history," he said. As for his chances of retaining his title, the Briton said: "This is potentially a fourth Tour de France title that I’m here to try and get. The challenge is bigger, the level of my rivals is higher on a difficult course so I’m here with all the motivation I’ve had before, if not more."
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