Nobody, it seems, can side-step a straight question quite like Dave Brailsford. Chris Froome's presence at this Giro d'Italia despite his still unresolved salbutamol case has dominated the build-up, but at Team Sky's pre-race press conference on Wednesday, Brailsford seemed to labour under the misapprehension that the assembled media would simply ask about race tactics and his impressions of Israel.
Froome returned an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol during the final week of last year's Vuelta a España, the news of which was leaked in December. The Briton has opted to continue to race until a final verdict is reached, but he would fall foul of Sky's so-called 'zero-tolerance' policy if he were found guilty of an anti-doping offence.
Brailsford declined to respond, however, when asked if the team would part company with Froome were he to be sanctioned for his elevated levels of salbutamol. Froome returned a reading of 2,000ng/ml – twice the permitted threshold – after stage 18 of the Vuelta, but insists that he did not exceed the permitted number of puffs from his inhaler.
"With respect to the Giro, we're here to talk about the race," said Brailsford. "For the time being, we're here to focus on the fantastic start in Jerusalem. I don't think this is the appropriate venue. We're here to concentrate on the race and on the press conference about the race."
The problem, of course, is that Brailsford can never be pinned down in what he might deign to consider an appropriate venue. Although the Welshman has been present at Sky races during the spring, he has generally evaded questions, either by ducking onto the team bus at the sight of a reporter or by flatly refusing to speak on the record with certain publications.
"Well, I've been at all the races this year, as usual," Brailsford insisted when his lack of availability was put to him. "I'm just back from the Classics, I've been around everywhere."
No matter, Team Sky's pre-Giro press conference was the first opportunity for reporters to question Brailsford on whether he had considered tendering his resignation following the publication of the Parliamentary Select Committee's report into doping in British sport in early March.
The report was particularly damning in its critique of Sky's use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions and sceptical of the team's explanation for the so-called Jiffy Bag case, where a mystery package was delivered for Bradley Wiggins following the final stage of the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné. "We believe that drugs were being used by Team Sky, within the WADA rules, to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need," the report stated.
Brailsford, as the head of the team's operation, clearly has grave questions to answer and, considering the weight of the accusations, one would think he would look to offer his point of view as quickly as possible. When afforded the opportunity in Jerusalem on Wednesday afternoon, however, he did not directly address any of the issues raised two months ago in the DCMS (Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport) report.
"Have I considered my position? I think anybody who works in this game considers his position," Brailsford said. "I'm constantly thinking, 'Am I the right person to support the team?' It's not about me, my goal is to try and help these guys, not just to perform but to perform optimally, and there's a difference.
"I think regardless of DCMS or anything else, there's constantly that piece of self-questioning about am I appropriately placed and have I the skills or whatever else to do that. And I think it's something you ask yourself all the time. Things come and go, things change, and situations change, but I'm here and I'm here because I think I am still in a position to support these guys to be the best they can be."
The exchange that then followed felt like a dreary microcosm of Brailsford's obfuscation in the months since Russian cyber-hacking group Fancy Bears leaked Bradley Wiggins' TUEs in September 2016 and storm clouds began to gather over Team Sky.
Asked if he had made changes at Team Sky to address the concerns raised by the Select Committee report, Brailsford said, "I have."
Asked if he could expand on what they were, however, Brailsford was less forthcoming. "I'm happy to share them. I'll share them when it's appropriate. I'm not going to share them with you right now."
The communications policy, it seems, remains unchanged.
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