Professional cycling outfit Team Sky fears critics of team member and current Tour de France leader Chris Froome may have hacked into its systems and stolen training data.
Froome's detractors have previously used power data in alleging the cyclist was using performance-enhancing drugs. The 30-year-old, who has always insisted he competes clean and has never failed a drug test, has dismissed interpretations of power data by non-experts (who he describes as "clowns").
Back in 2011, Team Sky went so far as to release Froome’s climbing data to French sports newspaper L’Equipe, whose expert concluded the cyclist's performance were possible without doping, Cycling Weekly notes.
Nonetheless, the British cyclist, who won the 2013 Tour and leads this year's competition by 12 seconds as the race goes into the Pyrenees, continues to be pursued by critics.
A video showing Froome’s ride on Mont Ventoux during the 2013 Tour overlaid with data on power, heart rate, speed and cadence was removed from YouTube on Monday. Critics had used the video to diss Froome on social media.
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford alleges these critics may have resorted to illegal tactics in the hunt for data to bolster their arguments.
"We think someone has hacked into our training data and got Chris' files, so we've got some legal guys on the case there," Brailsford told Sky Sports.
There is a historical precedent for this sort of computer hacking misdeeds in professional cycling. Four years ago disgraced US cyclist Floyd Landis was handed a suspended 12-month prison sentence for his part in a hack of an anti-doping lab computer. ®