If you’re into bike racing—and we at Bill Bone Bike Law are really into it—you know Chris Froome. He’s not only this decade’s phenom cyclist, winning four Tour de France races (2013, 2015, 2016, 2017) as well as the Vuelta a España (2017), but he’s a marvel to watch even on screen if you never get to see him in person.
Froome is this decade’s “Phenom.”
Since going pro about a decade ago, in his early 20s, Froome has pretty much left other cyclists eating his dust. The sheer number and succession of wins, including the Tour of Oman, the Critérium International, the Tour de Romandie, the Critérium du Dauphiné, the Vuelta a España, and of course, the biggie—the Tour de France—are impressive. And he did this all within about five rapid years.
But, the career of a pro cyclist can be nasty, brutish, and short. A bike racer can go from apex to nadir in a single season and never make a comeback. While Froome is still in the game, he’s recently hit a few bumps in the road. Figuratively and literally.
First things first. Remember Mark McGwire? Yup. Accused of doping. The 2014 Russian Olympic team? Same. Lance Armstrong? Denied it before he admitted it. In every single case, the athletes in question were thought to have used some performance-enhancing substance, often some synthetic or naturally-derived steroid. All these athletes and many more just like them, got international opprobrium in return for their version of cheating, and in the process, sacrificed titles and medals, lost millions in sponsorships and endorsements, and sometimes got banned from the sport altogether.
Sadly, it seems, the Phenom Chris Froome has not learned from his predecessors’ mistakes. In December 2017, it became public that Froome tested positive for salbutamol in September, while he was on his way to victory in the Vuelta a España. Asthmatic since childhood, Froome presumably takes this med for that chronic condition. Only one problem: Twice the amount allowed by World Anti-Doping Agency cycling regulations and far more than the typical therapeutic dosage was found in his urine test. Froome claims no misconduct, saying that the doctor for Team Sky (which has taken an explicitly anti-doping stance) advised him to up his use of the salbutamol inhaler for his asthma to address an uptick of symptoms. Thing is, the very same drug prescribed for asthma can also increase endurance, and it’s likely that Froome knows this.
Since these December revelations, Froome has continued to maintain his innocence of wrongdoing and asserts that he’ll be riding for his team in upcoming races, including the 2018 Tour de France. However, his reputation, that of Team Sky, and the reputation of the sport of bike racing overall have suffered mightily. Even die-hard fans are crestfallen.
Meanwhile, Froome’s been riding rough. He has continued his rigorous training in South Africa, where he lived and attended school during his teen years, and posts daily updates to social media. He’s been riding up to 120 miles a day, through the hilly, dry terrain near Johannesburg in the midst of its hot summer. On January 11, he fell and posted photos of his seemingly minor injuries to Twitter. Could this bump in the road presage more to come? Perhaps.
We’ll continue to follow Chris Froome and to be fans of bike racing and all things cycling. Bill Bone Bike Law is an advocate for bike and pedestrian safety and for the laws that protect the rights of cyclists to share the road.