Tour de France champion Chris Froome has called on cycling's anti-doping bodies to raise the number of drug tests athletes go through after claiming that he and several other riders were not tested during a recent training camp on Mount Teide in Tenerife.
Froome has just finished a block of training that lasted almost a fortnight in Tenerife and also stated that he had enquired as to whether several riders from other teams, on Teide at the same time, were tested. He found that no recent tests had been carried out.
Froome initially took to Twitter, stating, "Three major TDF contenders staying on Mt Teide and no out of competition tests for the past 2 weeks. Very disappointing."
The riders he was referring to were Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), Alberto Contador (Tinkoff Saxo) and himself. All three riders have singled out the Tour de France as their major ambition for the season and will race the Critérium du Dauphiné next month as their final event before the Grand Depart in Leeds.
Cyclingnews contacted Froome, who is currently on his way from Tenerife to the United Kingdom as he looks to ride reconnaissance over the Tour de France stages that will be held in England.
"I've asked around with other teams just out of interest, because we've been up here before and not been tested, so I just wanted to see if it was the same case for everyone but none of them, from what I could gather, had been tested either," Froome told Cyclingnews.
"Alberto, Vincenzo, we're all up here with our respective teams and at the end of the day we're the ones that have to stand in front of the television cameras in July and justify performances. All three of us are GC contenders and the probability is that whoever is in the yellow jersey in July is going to have to answer questions and if we're not getting tested that doesn't look good on any of us."
After Froome's initial tweet, Nibali replied, stating that he had undergone five tests in the last month. However the Italian later added that those tests had taken place off the island.
Although anti-doping tests are by no means the only way to catch cheats or police professional sport, they do form part of the anti-doping programme. Authorities can target riders for testing, and cycling is part of the Biological Passport.
"We're doing everything we can to show that cycling has turned a page and it's not like it was in the past, but things like this don't help. I know from last year, journalists do ask whether we've been tested while we've been up here and we can only say we weren't. That's not good for the image of the sport or piece of mind. It would be good to have more testing done up here, especially this close to the Tour de France. This period of training is a building block for the Tour, before the Dauphiné and I would have expected to see more testing and it's disappointing," Froome added.
Froome and Team Sky have used Tenerife as their training base for a number of seasons. The location hardly has the best reputation with a number of teams having used it in the past as a location to train at altitude but also to dope. Team Sky have called for more testing on the island before but Froome's challenge is by far the most robust and direct.
"I've been tested once and I've been up here maybe four or five times," he said.
"We're all in the same hotel and we're all just a few doors away from each other. We have dinner together and at the end of the day the anti-doping authorities aren't the ones who have to stand in front of the media in July and justify the sport. In my opinion they're not helping by not doing controls at this part in the season."
"Some may have misinterpreted my tweet thinking that I was trying to turn on the other contenders up here, but that is not the case. I think that if we're trying to show that the sport has changed it's difficult to do so if we're not being tested up here."