ORANGE, France (AP) - Clearly dismayed by repeated questions about doping, the team of Tour de France leader Chris Froome volunteered on Monday to open up to independent scrutiny all of its training secrets to try to prove "beyond reasonable doubt" that the Briton and his teammates are riding clean.
Froome's evident physical superiority at the 100th Tour has raised eyebrows, practically inevitable in the climate of suspicion that haunts cycling after the downfall of Lance Armstrong. That despite cycling's anti-doping controls that are more rigorous, invasive and credible than in many other sports.
Froome says that given the history of doping in cycling, he understands why there are questions and insists he is happy to answer them. Still, without getting flustered or angry, Froome was unhappy that doping became a main topic of his news conference on the Monday rest day that followed his stage win on Mont Ventoux, the first by a Briton on that mammoth climb in Provence.
"I just think it's quite sad that we're sitting here the day after the biggest victory of my life ... quite a historic win, talking about doping," Froome said. "Here I am basically being accused of being a cheat and a liar and that's not cool."
Froome batted away any comparison to Armstrong, saying: "To compare me with Lance, I mean, Lance cheated. I'm not cheating. End of story."
With so many of cycling's recent exploits later shown to have been drug-assisted, many of the sport's fans and critics understandably want now to know whether they can believe what they're seeing at the Tour. Froome's performances are subject to intense debate on social media, cycling blogs and in mainstream media. A mini-industry is springing up of observers attempting to guesstimate and analyze how much power Froome might be generating on his bike, and then taking a stab at judging from that data whether he is clean. Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford called this "the latest craze."
"Every day we get asked the same question and I can assure you that we are thinking very, very hard about the optimal way of proving to you guys that we're not doping," Brailsford said.
He suggested the World Anti-Doping Agency could help by appointing an expert who could pore over every facet of Froome's preparations for the Tour he's now leading by more than four minutes, with just six stages left to the finish in Paris.
This expert "can have everything that we've got. They can come and live with us, they can have all of our information, they can see all of our data, they can have access to every single training file," as well Sky riders' blood readings, weight and power data, he said.
"The whole thing and someone sits there and pieces it all together and says, `Well, yes or no,"' he said. The WADA-sanctioned expert "could tell the world and you whether they think this is credible or not."
Brailsford also challenged journalists to put their heads together and come up with ideas about what Team Sky could do to prove "beyond reasonable doubt that we're not doing anything."
"You tell me what would prove it for you, what could we do so that you wouldn't have to ask me the question?" Brailsford said. "Instead of saying, `Dave, how are you going to prove to us you're not doping?' which isn't the greatest question to ask, why not think collectively, what would be the best methodology possible to prove beyond reasonable doubt that we and Chris aren't doping?"
"I'm not sure I've got the answer to that. But I think collectively if we thought about it maybe we could come up with an answer."