Chris Froome being on the start line next week at the Giro d'Italia, when viewed in a vacuum, would seem to make a mockery of the sport.

But with context, knowing this is cycling and this is 2018, a couple of questions seem more pertinent than whether Froome's place in the race is fair.

First, in the same week in which Lance Armstrong settled his lawsuit for defrauding the US government, is there anything left to mock? And second, does it even matter?

Fans in Italy may hold close their rosary beads in the hopes local favourite Fabio Aru can claim the pink jersey, and night owls in New Zealand will cling to the coffee pot while rooting for George Bennett to earn a top-10 finish — but few observers will be clutching their pearls at the thought of Froome winning his first Giro.


Part of that will be about a sport whose reputation is much harder to repair than a puncture.

Part will be the uncertainty over Froome's exact misdeeds. But most surely owes to a malaise about performance-enhancing substances.

With Team Sky, once viewed as the white knight of the peloton, having been dragged into the mud, there's no limit to the cynicism about the sanctity of cycling.

First there was Bradley Wiggins, whose asthma problem was apparently as incredible as his ability to ride a bike really fast. And now there's Froome, who's overcome similar respiratory restrictions to reach the top.

Inspiring, really. Rather coincidental, these world-class athletes suffering debilitating breathing issues, but certainly inspiring.

Froome, for those whose eyes justifiably glaze over when a cyclist is caught out, returned an adverse finding for elevated levels of salbutamol at last year's Vuelta and is awaiting a potential ban over the asthma drug.

Ignoring universal calls to withdraw his name from the Giro, the Brit was last week permitted a spot on the start line on Friday, despite the rather delicious prospect of his suspension being handed down mid-race.

That would be something. And would guarantee a clean winner of the Giro, right? Right?


Unfortunately, that's not how this works. Cycling is tough. The cycling season is tougher. Human bodies are not built for these rigours.

Riders have sought advantages throughout history and the authorities have always trailed well behind the peloton.

That's probably not what a fan wants to hear when devoting 90 hours of their life to watching the Giro. But for this fan, it matters little.

Cycling is still exceedingly fun without knowing the particulars of what's coursing through a rider's bloodstream. No substance changes the thrill of a sprint finish, the drama of a mountaintop duel.

Froome never represented a new era of cycling; just the latest messy instalment. So forget about sanctimony and just go along for the ride.

Racing to the bottom
The annals of sport have been blessed with battles between inseparable rivals. Ali and Frazier in the ring, Federer and Nadal on the court. Lisa and Bart in the rink.

And now we're set to be treated to another epic duel: an ethics showdown between Fifa and Donald Trump. In a race to the bottom that can have no winner, the most corrupt organisation in sports history has taken on the most controversial president in US history, sparring over the rights to host the 2026 Fifa World Cup.

The American bid, submitted jointly with Canada and Mexico, was long considered the favourite — until Trump happened. Suddenly, some football federations were weirdly upset at being told they lived in "shithole countries", or being restricted from visiting the US due to their religion, and support galvanised behind an unlikely Moroccan bid.

Trump this week took to Twitter to threaten voting nations, prompting Fifa to respond by citing its code of ethics — don't laugh — which prohibits anyone affiliated with a bid making statements about other member associations.

The winner in this contest of true equals will be showered with praise. The loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore.