You may not be familiar with who Chris Froome is.
He is an African born Englishman and Professional Road Cyclist.
He has won the Tour de France on 4 occassions and last year added the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana) to his palmares (prize list). In doing so, he became the first to do the Tour de France/Vuelta double in the same year since the Spanish race was moved to its current date in the calendar.
He is the outstanding cyclist of his era and rides for the wealthy, dominant and well organised Team sponsored by Sky. Sky of course are a part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.
So, what is my question?
I have been fortunate enough to hear Chris Froome interviewed in person on a number of occasions. He has always appeared relaxed, respectful, cautious, accommodating and often amusing. He also possesses a degree of self derogating humour so often displayed by humble champions.
I have witnessed him show unlimited patience answering questions and posing for countless “selfies” with fans and admirers. He does all of this with a smile and a high degree of natural engagement.
I have attended two “in camera” sessions with him and his openness and insights about the world of cycling, its characters and villains has been informative and entertaining.
I have met him face to face on one occasion, having a short conversation with him. I suspect only one of us recalls this.
I asked him a question when we met and I have another to ask now.
I have heard him speak lovingly, respectfully and affectionately about his partner and very naturally, proudly and authentically too. Further, his partner spoke openly in his defence some time ago when he was under attack from that other British Tour de France winner.
There is much about Chris Froome and his family that is similar to another great sportsperson who is also the outstanding achiever in his sport in his era. He speaks well, accommodates fans and is generous in the media. His partner has also spoken in his defence and he speaks lovingly about her and her contribution to his career.
A common quality of a Champion is a respect for the history of their sport and an understanding the opportunities afforded them are due to the efforts of, and the industry created by those that have gone before. A Champion also takes responsibility for the future of the sport and aims to leave it in better shape for the next generation.
A Champion not only respects opponents, they also know they contribute to the image, credibility and success of their sport. They accept a responsibility to the industry that serves them knowing sponsorship and positive exposure benefits everyone. They respect the entirety of the sport.
Some months after the Vuelta a Espana, it was leaked that Chris Froome had returned an adverse finding to a urine test during the event.
An adverse finding is different to the use of banned performance enhancing substances. An adverse finding relates to there being too much of an allowable substance in the athletes system. Chris Froome tested as having twice the allowable level of asthma medication in his system. He is well known as a suffer of asthma.
Because this is not an illegal substance, the athlete is allowed to continue to compete while the matter is under investigation. (at least that is my reading of the reason).
However, should the result of the investigation find the athlete liable (in this case Chris Froome) any results achieved while racing from the time of the test to the guilty finding will be erased. For example, if he were to win a race, whoever came second would be retrospectively declared the winner.
Seems fair? On the surface it may however the simple presence of a cyclist of Chris Froome’s ability at a race means the event will be raced differently. Trust me, it just does and could adversely impact the careers of other cyclists.
Chris Froome is under a cloud and his competing in a race, any race, when it may be determined he should not be racing, changes the outcome.
Chris Froome has decided to race in Spain next week.
All the publicity surrounding the race will be negatively focused on him and his team.
Is he entitled to be there? Absolutely? The rules allow it.
Is him being at the race good for the sport of cycling? No.
Is a cyclist of his calibre racing while under investigation good for the brand of cycling and its ability to attract and retain sponsors? No.
Now to my question to Chris Froome.
If he was under similar investigations and was aware of the damage his playing in a tournament could cause the image of his sport, sponsorship, TV ratings and attracting new participants, what would Roger Federer do?
I think we all know the answer.