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Clean athletes must be protected, says Sky’s Brailsford

Sky boss David Brailsford hints that he would support a ban of all Russian athletes from the Rio Olympics.

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HILTERFINGEN, Switzerland (AFP) — Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford hinted at his support for an Olympic ban against Russia, insisting that clean athletes must be protected. Speaking during Tuesday’s Tour de France rest day, Brailsford answered a question about the McLaren report, which calls for a ban on the entire Russian delegation from the Rio Olympics. And the 52-year-old, whose Sky leader Chris Froome is in control at the Tour, suggested he supported such a move.

“From the team’s point of view, the fundamental issue — and having worked in the Olympic environment for many, many years — is that clean athletes need to be protected,” said Brailsford. “Clean athletes work very hard to go to the biggest stages to compete and they need to do so with the full knowledge that everything that needs to be done to allow them to have a level playing field when they compete [is being done].

“If we start from the basis of protecting clean athletes, then the rest is pretty obvious in terms of what you need to do.”

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Froome himself has come under intense suspicion over the last three years since winning his first of two Tour titles in 2013. That year, he was bombarded with questions about doping after a devastating attack on a summit finish at Ax 3 Domaines that put him in charge of the race. Last year, a similar attack on another uphill finish to Pierre Saint-Martin, saw Froome forced to bat away questions about the use of a motorized bicycle.

“Significant story”

But this year Froome’s been largely spared such unpleasant scrutiny, despite being again well on his way to a third Tour victory. Brailsford believes his charge has put the skeptics in their place once and for all.

“I think it’s pretty important what Chris did at the end of last year, going to the lab and putting himself up for testing independently of us and the team, and I think the numbers told a significant story,” Brailsford said. “People certainly aren’t asking the same questions as they have done in the past. It’s difficult to ask for VAM and power data if you’re going downhill and dropping everybody, which is what we saw.”

Brailsford also claimed his team had been tested 13 times since the Tour started by authorities trying to catch doping violations.

“The fans have been great, the fans are what make this race,” Froome added. “For sure there are pockets of people standing together who boo and they’re very loud, but you go to a football game and some who don’t like the other team, they will boo with other fans.

“It’s sport, it’s unfortunate, and it doesn’t look good for the sport, but at the same time there are thousands upon thousands of people who do come out there and they’re supporting all the riders and supporting the race — and that’s amazing to see.”

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.