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State of the Nation – Cycling: Froome case has left black cloud hovering over the sport

TAINTED: Chris Froome rides on the Champs-Elysees in the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey in 2017. Picture: Adam Davy/PA
TAINTED: Chris Froome rides on the Champs-Elysees in the Tour de France leader's yellow jersey in 2017. Picture: Adam Davy/PA
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It should be a time for celebrating cycling in this country, for lauding the feats of one remarkable athlete and the many riders below him who are inspired by his groundbreaking accomplishments.

It should be a time to revel in the growing number of races that are now contested on not only these shores, but on the city streets and rural thoroughfares of this great county. But, instead, there is a nagging doubt at the back of one’s mind.

Lizzie Deignan: Aiming for more success.

Lizzie Deignan: Aiming for more success.

A question mark over the validity of what we see before our very eyes, of what we can believe in, and of what is genuine.

Chris Froome won two grand tours in 2017 and in May this year seeks to become the first man in the long history of cycling to hold all three endurance tests when he rides in the Giro d’Italia.

But instead his reputation is stained, tainted by the very scourge that has bedevilled the sport ever since Tommy Simpson died a mile from the summit of Mont Ventoux with amphetamines in his system, 50 years ago last summer.

Two weeks before Christmas it was revealed that a urine test provided by Froome during La Vuelta a Espana in September was found to contain twice the permitted concentration of salbutamol, which he uses to treat asthma.

His reputation is stained, tainted by the very scourge that has bedevilled the sport ever since Tommy Simpson died a mile from the summit of Mont Ventoux with amphetamines in his system, 50 years ago last summer.

Nick Westby

Froome maintains he did not take more than the permitted amount at any stage of the Vuelta, a race he won.

As the four-time Tour de France winner awaits the verdict from the UCI as to whether he is banned or not, the sport finds itself back where it has been so many times before, with its standard-bearer bringing the sport into disrepute.

It is a sport that has tried desperately to shed the doping image but one it finds itself wrestling with constantly.

There is still much to be excited by, not least the four-day Tour de Yorkshire and two-day women’s race, the UCI Road World Championships in September 2019 in the White Rose county drawing ever closer, and a world championships and a Commonwealth Games this Spring in which this country will again be at the sharp end of the medal fight.

Leading that challenge will be Yorkshire’s own Lizzie Deignan as she bids for more glory to add to her remarkable palmeres, 18 months after having fought to clear her own name over missed drugs tests.

Once again cycling finds itself at a moral crossroads, and the forthcoming judgment on Froome could have damaging consequences.