Brailsford looks to weather storm as Tour de France looms

Twelve months on from a frosty and tense press conference in Dusseldorf for the 2017 Grand Départ, Dave Brailsford and Team Sky once again faced difficult questions on Wednesday over their credibility as another Tour de France came into focus.

In Germany last July, the central themes that trickled through Team Sky’s pre-race press conference involved Jiffy bags, corticoid use and pressure from a DCMS select committee that later criticised the team over its poor record-keeping and use of TUEs to potentially boost performance rather than cure rider illness.

This time around, in a hanger on the outskirts of French town Saint-Mars-la-Réorthe, in the Vendée, 25km south of Cholet, Brailsford and Chris Froome faced the media over the clearing of Froome in his salbutamol case. With the ink on WADA’s resolution still wet, and as more pieces of the jigsaw are systematically placed with sympathetic members of the media, one important factor remains whether Team Sky’s evidence will be released.

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On Monday WADA and the UCI confirmed that Froome’s case had been dropped and that the adverse analytical finding (AAF) from the Vuelta would go no further. The rider was clear to race, and although questions have now arisen surrounding WADA’s code and whether their salbutamol rules are fit for purpose, many on the sidelines have called for Team Sky to release the body of evidence they supplied to WADA.

Initially it looked as though the defence would be shared with the media, with Froome himself saying so in an interview earlier this week. However, Team Sky later clarified that Froome had been out training on the day of WADA’s verdict and was not entirely up to speed on the situation. The team added that no further evidence would be shared with the public.

At the team’s press conference, Brailsford looked to pre-empt the inevitable rush of questions by praising Froome and emphasising that he had always had his rider’s back throughout the process. The team principal was also at pains to add that the AAF was not an AAF, but a ‘presumed AAF’ – a point that must have slipped through the cracks at the UCI who used no such term in their initial press release when announcing Froome’s case back in 2017.

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