Context means Nibali gets an easy ride on doping

Mon Jul 21, 2014 2:10pm EDT
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By Julien Pretot

CARCASSONNE France (Reuters) - On the first rest day of the Tour de France, Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford wondered why Vincenzo Nibali was being let off the hook over cycling's doping problem after last year's champion Chris Froome was grilled multiple times on the matter.

Froome answered dozens of doping-related questions as media urged him to prove his credibility in 2013 but until Sunday, the day before the second rest day, Nibali had faced no more than three questions on the subject despite comfortably leading the general classification.

So why is Nibali having an easy ride on a theme that has dominated the sport for years?

After all, Nibali is riding for the Astana team, whose manager Alexandre Vinokourov was banned for two years for blood doping in the 2007 Tour de France.

In contrast, Team Sky have implemented a zero-tolerance policy meaning that any rider or staff member with a doping history had to leave the squad.

The reasons why Nibali has avoided being harangued are varied, but the fact he has slowly worked his way up to cycling's pinnacle and his team being members of a key anti- doping initiative are perhaps the main ones.

Nibali snatched the overall lead on the Tour after the second stage and has therefore had to hold a news conference everyday since July 6, except after briefly surrendering the yellow jersey to France's Tony Gallopin.

It took until last Thursday for the first question about drugs to confront Nibali, who eight years ago when cycling's doping 'Omerta' was still firmly in place said cheats should be locked up.   Continued...

Defending champion, Team Sky rider Christopher Froome (R) of Britain reacts as he speaks to the media as he leaves his hotel in Marcq-en-Baroeul, northern France, after abandoning in the 5th stage of the Tour de France cycle race between Ypres in Belgium and Arenberg Porte du Hainaut in France, July 9, 2014.    REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier