David Walsh, the journalist famous for his pursuit of Lance Armstrong, has questioned the ethics of Team Sky and has accused the British team of failing to live up to their self-professed high ethical standards.
After it became clear that Sky had requested a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) during the Tour of Romandie in April in order to treat Chris Froome, who later won the race, with a corticoid containing the banned substance prednisone, Walsh, writing in The Sunday Times, has criticised the team.
It seems Walsh has spoken to Froome, Sky's lead doctor Alan Farrell as well as Steve Peters, the team's former psychologist. The journalist claims that Sky's standards have slipped from at one point being against requesting TUE's during competitive racing and wonders why the team apparently have abandoned this stance.
"What has happened to the team’s belief that TUEs should not be sought for riders in competition? Farrell says he was unaware this ethical position existed within the team. Froome says he never heard of it. But Peters has said it did exist at one point and the team are in only their fifth year," Walsh writes.
"As in the case of the appointment of (former Rabobank doctor) Leinders, Team Sky talk the talk of high ethical standards but do not walk the walk."
Walsh makes a point out of the fact that the other four riders in the top five in the Tour of Romandie would not have been able to apply for the TUE that Froome received, due to them being members of teams involved in The Movement For Credible Cycling, whose rules forbid that option.
"Team Sky like to portray themselves as the most ethical team in the peloton. The evidence says otherwise." Walsh said as a conclusion to his story.
Walsh joined Team Sky for their 2013 Tour de France campaign and concluded in his book Inside Team Sky that Froome had been clean during his victory in France. Furthermore, he saw no signs of a doping culture within the British team.
Sky has previously denied any wrongdoing regarding the TUE requested for Chris Froome at the Tour of Romandie, answering questions from cyclingnews. The team said that their riders “only race when it's right to do so – their safety and long-term health are essential.”
Team Sky insisted it was safe for Froome to complete the Tour of Romandie despite his chest infection and have defended their decision to request the TUE.
"It was safe for Chris to ride at Romandie and he was given the appropriate treatment," a team spokesperson told Cyclingnews.
"Our riders will only race or train when it's right to do so – their safety and long-term health are essential. The medical team supports all of our riders, in and out of competition, and provides the proper medical care to ensure they are always safe to ride."
Despite the MPCC's well known tough stance on doping, which should harmonise with Sky's views on the use of banned substances, the team management has always been against joining the movement.
"Team Sky's approach to anti-doping is well-known," a Team Sky spokesperson said.
"We abide by the rules and we strongly support the authorities – including the UCI and WADA – in their work. We’re happy with our position. The MPCC is a voluntary organisation and we – like some other teams – are not members of the group."
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