Is Team Sky transparency enough to silence the doubters?
Cycling has been through a challenging time over the past few years.
Seven-time Tour de France ‘winner’ Lance Armstrong was identified as a serial cheat, following others who had competed during the late 1990s and early 2000s with accusations that senior members of the sport’s governing body, the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), were aware of the problems but had not acted.
Brian Cookson, who won the 2013 UCI Presidential election, has already started to make his mark in a bid to restore confidence and the reputation of both the governing body and the sport itself.
An impressive character, Cookson knows that it won’t happen overnight, and the narrative of those reporting on the Tour de France (not a UCI event) continues to be overshadowed by an undercurrent of doping suspicions.
Team Sky has been one of the most successful cycling teams in recent years, under the guidance of Sir David Brailsford, who has also overseen Team GB’s success at international events.
But the fact that Chris Froome has done so well in the 2015 Tour de France, leading the race by some margin, has created a groundswell of innuendo and criticism.
Froome, you’ll remember, won the Tour in 2013, but he lacks the flamboyance of his former team-mate, Sir Bradley Wiggins, who won the Tour in 2012.
He was also reported to have missed a drugs test earlier this year while on holiday – something easily done and far from uncommon but not helpful in the context of the sport’s reputation.
Add that to suggestions that Froome has a secret motor in his bike, the cynicism many feel about elite cyclists and the fact that his success has come relatively late for a pro and it has created a problem Sky have not yet been able to put to rest.
It even resulted in him being showered with urine by a spectator during the Tour.
Team Sky have done the right thing, communicating proactively and going so far as to release some of Froome's power data from Stage 10 in an attempt to silence those speculating about possible doping offences.
Experts say that the data is plausible but not conclusive while Team Sky have said that to reveal comprehensive data would compromise their competitive advantage – unless the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) were to take the same raft of data from all riders on a confidential basis.
Team Sky have made Froome and Brailsford available for interview to address the ongoing concerns while Froome has seemingly resigned himself to a lifetime of suspicion.
Armstrong, never one to shun the limelight, spoke recently about his own misdemeanours being responsible for doubts over Froome and the fact that he has had to face media and spectator criticism when he should be celebrating his success – before adding unhelpfully that he couldn’t be certain Froome is clean.
For now, all Froome can do is focus on winning the Tour and making himself available for drug tests and media interviews.
That the doubts will not go away is a challenge for the sport which should not solely rest on his shoulders.