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Cycling: Statesman Froome has ridden above controversy, says Boardman

LONDON (Reuters) - Chris Froome has emerged as a shining light from the anti-doping controversies that have engulfed Team Sky and British Cycling over the past year, former Olympic champion Chris Boardman says.

Rider Chris Froome of Britain attends the presentation of the itinerary of the 2017 Tour de France cycling race during a news conference in Paris, France, October 18, 2016. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Team Sky, with whom Froome has won three of the last four Tour de France races, has been dogged for months by a row over Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) and a package that was delivered to Froome’s former team mate Bradley Wiggins in 2011.

Wiggins consistently denied any wrongdoing but the episode brought a sour postscript to a stellar career and is part of an ongoing UK anti-doping investigation in the sport.

Yet despite the controversies, Froome’s reputation has been enhanced, according to former British Cycling technical advisor Boardman, who wore the yellow jersey in three separate Tours.

“What I’ve found interesting about the last few months is that Froome has become more of a statesman for the sport,” Boardman told Reuters at the London Cycle Show.

“He is more comfortable in that role now. He’s clear on what he thinks and doesn’t contradict himself. I think Chris Froome has handled himself very well.”

Froome has insisted “there are questions” to answer about Wiggins’s use of TUEs after leaked World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) data revealed he injected corticosteroid triamcinolone ahead of his 2012 Tour de France win to treat asthma.

Froome also reportedly distanced himself from Dave Brailsford after the Team Sky boss was grilled by British lawmakers in December about the contents of the package delivered to Wiggins.

“I think people have tried to infer things, spin what (Froome) said, which I think is unfair,” Boardman said of a perceived cooling in the relationship between Froome and Team Sky.

“But what he has said has been bang on.”

Boardman said the sooner questions are answered the better.

“I think people are going to have to come up with answers,” he said. “I’m not 100 percent about what I’m looking at and how I feel about that.”

With Brailsford battling to uphold Team Sky’s reputation and the British Cycling reeling from the resignations of head coach Shane Sutton, CEO Ian Drake and chairman Bob Howden in the space of nine months, the sport is facing testing times.

Boardman said there was too much negativity though.

“Over the past two Olympic cycles the sport has been the most successful for Britain,” he said. “Half the medals are coming from women. Yet everyone seems willing to shoot at it.

“People are riding bikes, it’s on mainstream TV. I like the new chairman. We don’t need more cyclists (in the organization). What we need are experts in managing people and big business.”

Of far greater concern to Boardman is safe cycling in Britain and making cycling part of everyday life.

It is a subject especially close to his heart after his mother was knocked off her bike and killed.

“We have stalled,” he said. “The government says it wants to double the amount of cycling by 2025. Well that’s two percent to four percent which is hardly ambitious.

“They are ignoring it. There are 10 million people in London and they have to move around. Cycling is a logical solution but the acid test is providing spaces to ride that are attractive and safe.”

Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Richard Lough