LONDON • Team Sky believe that hackers have tapped into Chris Froome's performance data and are using it to try to discredit the Tour de France leader.
Dave Brailsford, the cycling team's principal, revealed that lawyers are looking into how sensitive information was leaked.
Froome's numbers, such as power data, are known to only a selected number of employees so Sky have been perturbed to see the figures appear on social media and other outlets.
"We think someone has hacked into our training data and got Chris' files so we have got some legal guys on the case there," Brailsford said.
Allegations have been thrown at Froome based on his speed up various climbs, and the necessary power output, and Brailsford believes that the 2013 Tour champion is being attacked on the back of data obtained illegally.
"Ethically and morally, if you are going to accuse someone of doping, then don't cheat," he added.
On Monday night, a video was posted on YouTube of Froome's decisive climb up Mont Ventoux en route to Tour victory in 2013, apparently showing his exact cadence, heart rate, speed and power.
The revelation came as the Briton prepared to head into the high mountains of the Pyrenees yesterday, when the performances of the leading riders will draw fresh scrutiny from pundits.
The faster they climb, the deeper the scepticism - and no one has looked as strong as the Sky leader.
"It's part of the game, isn't it?" Brailsford said, wearily.
"If he does well tomorrow, the rest of the Tour, it's, 'How do you know he's not doping?' "
One answer would be to release all the data collected by the power meters on every rider's bike.
However, Sky insist that will create more confusion.
For example, different makes can show different readings.
Froome's use of an oval chainring is said to give a different output compared to those on conventional round ones.
"The question of how to prove a negative is always going to be a difficult one," Brailsford said of the challenge to demonstrate that his riders are not doping.
Froome has talked of "clowns" interpreting figures and insists that more information about times and power would not necessarily assuage the doubts.
"To release it into the world for people to rip apart and say, 'On this 15-minute section, he was too fast'... you don't get wind speed, temperature, how hard you've ridden, all those variable factors," he told The Times last week.
Sky continue to insist that they are at the vanguard of a cleaner sport, and that Froome's rise to become a Tour champion is a measure of extraordinary physiology and teaching him how to harness it over the past five years.
THE TIMES, LONDON
TOUR DE FRANCE
Stage 11: StarHub Ch212, 8.15pm