Sky's new doc will boost confidence

Chris Froome's chances of a second Tour de France title look good as he has a commanding 2:52 lead with just over a week to go.
Chris Froome's chances of a second Tour de France title look good as he has a commanding 2:52 lead with just over a week to go.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Roger Palfreeman, one of the most respected doctors in sport and a leading anti-doping campaigner, has been appointed team doctor by cycling's Team Sky.

With Tour de France leader Chris Froome having to fend off renewed questioning after outstanding performances, Sky have made a significant move in public relations as well as medical terms.

Dr Palfreeman worked for British Cycling, as well as for Sky, before taking a job advising UK Sport pre-London 2012. He was rehired by Sky from the BMC team at the beginning of last month, although his recruitment has not been publicly confirmed as he completes a three-month induction.

His arrival will provide confidence in the zero-tolerance, anti-doping policy adopted by Dave Brailsford, Sky's team principal.

The stellar performance of Team Sky at this year's Tour de France has led to suspicions in the French media, and huge frustration within the operation.

The decision to hire Dr Palfreeman can be seen as part of a PR offensive in the teeth of this adverse publicity.

  • WHAT SCEPTICS SAY

  • Laurent Jalabert, speaking on television, said that Froome’s victory on Tuesday was “uncomfortable to watch”.

  • Cedric Vasseur, also a television pundit, said: “It seems like the bike is pedalling itself.”

  • Le Monde : “To explain that a sprinter runs 100 metres in 9 seconds, one cannot simply say that it is just exceptional.”
  • L’Equipe: “As in 2013, the performance of the British team is inseparable from a certain mistrust.”
  • Le Monde : “The prevailing atmosphere in the Tour is one of suspicion.”

Sky point out that it is nigh impossible to prove a negative - that they are not doping - and that they have tried to conduct themselves with honour and openness.

"I am looking forward to continuing my work with Team Sky, as well as in the campaign to kick doping out of sport," Dr Palfreeman said. "It would be great to live in a world where stellar performances are met with enthusiasm rather than distrust."

Froome continued to be the overall leader of the Tour after Friday's 13th stage, leading American Tejay van Garderen (BMC Racing) by 2min 52sec and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) of Colombia by 3:09.

Greg van Avermaet, one of cycling's nearly men, enjoyed a rare victory when he claimed the 13th stage with a late burst of speed in an uphill finale.

The Belgian powered away from a small group on a steep final straight to outsprint Slovakian Peter Sagan, who is himself developing a reputation for failing at the finish. REUTERS, THE TIMES, LONDON

TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 15: StarHub Ch212, 8.15pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 19, 2015, with the headline 'Sky's new doc will boost confidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe