Dekker: The problem with Froome and Team Sky is a lack of transparency

Early in the Giro d'Italia the retired rider and former doper Thomas Dekker provocatively suggested to Velonews that Chris Froome is "perhaps the cleanest Tour winner we've ever had in history."

After covering this year's race for the digital video channel of AD Sportswereld, the Dutchman has taken a step back, with Froome's victory leaving him more questions than answers.

Froome refused to reveal if he took salbutamol during this year's Giro d'Italia, while his Adverse Analytical Finding (AFF) for the asthma drug at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana rumbles on in the background with little sign of a final verdict. Froome won the Giro d'Italia to complete a rare slam of the Grand Tours but if he is convicted of an anti-doping rule violation he will lose his Vuelta victory and possibly his Giro d'Italia victory too.  

"We just don't know what he's doing. He's doing all the tests but it's a miracle almost that he came back like this," Dekker told Cyclingnews, looking for straight answers as a neutral observer rather than trying to make a polemic.    

"It's difficult to say and it's easy to point a finger but we just don't know, that's the problem in cycling right now."

"Cycling has changed a lot. We've seen that Simon Yates didn't make it to the final week. Pinot was on the podium but then lost 45 minutes but it's difficult to say what we're looking at." 

Dekker is convinced that Froome should have recused himself from racing the Giro as he and his legal team fight his salbutamol case. Yet Dekker also sees the case from the Team Sky rider's position. 

"The worst thing is that he could start. It's still possible there's a court case, with lawyers, and so it would have been better if he hadn't started," Dekker said. 

"But I can also understand him and understand Brailsford, that they fight these things. They have the money and they have the power to do it. The UCI is not a strong federation and the rules just need to be better." 

A lack of transparency at Team Sky

Dekker has a sharper, more experienced eye than most. Still only 33, he retired at the end of 2014 and wrote a hard-hitting autobiography of his own career and his doping during his time at the Rabobank team. He served a two-year ban between July 2009 and 2011, returning to race with the Garmin team for four seasons.

He now lives in Los Angeles but enjoyed his three weeks observing and commenting on the Giro d'Italia. Like many, he has read the social media accusations against Froome and also seen some of the data calculations that suggest Froome's performance during his race-winning 80km solo attack to Bardonecchia were not from another planet. 

"It was not so extreme; he made the biggest difference between the top of the Colle delle Finestre to Sestriere. It's a big grey area instead of black and white," Dekker said. 

"Also Dumoulin said that Reichenbach was going down (descending) like an old lady and that he made a few mistakes. He (Froome) attacked like he always attacked on his best days at the Tour de France, then on the last climb he set the same time as Dumoulin, and only the Colombian and Ecuador guys (Miguel Angel Lopez and Richard Carapaz) did a faster time." 

"I think cycling is way more professional than it ever was. They're strong guys. Maybe in ten years time we'll know more about it. I really believe in Iwan Spekenbrink, how he started in cycling and how he wanted to change a professional team."

"There's a lack of transparency at Team Sky and that's a big problem. I can understand that people ask questions now. That's the whole problem: the credibility of cycling. For me too. I was a big doper but I'm standing here watching. What can we do? We have to learn from the mistakes of the past. But we all still cheer Alejandro Valverde, but you know, he never admitted anything. He doesn't do many interviews and nobody asks him any questions.

"If you want to be transparent, why can't you show your doping control details if you want to do something about it all. Show what is written on it and what medicines you are taking.

"I think it's going to be difficult for Froome to do the Tour de France because of all the bad publicity and because the French people are going to give him a really hard time, harder than in Italy, for sure.

Asked if that is right, Dekker said: "What is right? Richard Virenque is working for Eurosport in France. Sometimes it's all so hypocritical. It's a difficult world."

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