NAIROBI (AFP) — Tour de France champion Chris Froome has welcomed the introduction of tougher penalties for doping, and admitted that he had been personally “hit hard” by accusations he cheated his way to the second consecutive Tour title for Great Britain.
Speaking at the end of a private visit to Kenya, the country of his birth and where he first fell in love with the sport, Froome said cycling was now a much cleaner sport than it was during the notorious Lance Armstrong era.
“It is great that WADA [World Anti-Doping Agency] plans to extend the ban from two to four years, and that cycling is being taken as leading the way in the fight in anti-doping,” he told reporters.
Last week the WADA annual meeting concluded with the adoption of a tougher code featuring longer bans for those who intentionally use performance-enhancing drugs.
“When first-time offenders are given a four-year ban, that’s quite serious for a sport when the window is very short. You can only be a professional for 15 years. It is a harsh penalty and that’s what we need to see in cycling,” Froome said.
Froome said the fall-out from the Armstrong era, when doping in the peloton was rife, meant that cycling was now probably “the cleanest endurance sport there is” because of the sheer amount of out-of-competition tests being carried out.
He admitted he had been “hit hard” when faced with accusations that he was doping, even though he understood such questions were inevitable.
“It was a very difficult time in the Tour De France. Everybody was asking me … and people were saying to me, ‘you could be doping,'” he said. “It definitely added stress during the Tour.
“That hit me quite hard, but it was something I expected, because post-Lance Armstrong everyone was asking questions about it and I came to accept it, because I knew it came from the past and everyone putting on the yellow jersey could be asked about doping.”