By Pauline Mevel
PARIS (Reuters) - Stringent drug testing means cycling is now probably the cleanest sport, Tour de France champion Chris Froome said on Monday.
Froome is the first rider to win the Tour since American Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles for cheating and, perhaps unsurprisingly given cycling's drug-tainted past, the Briton found the finger of suspicion pointing at him during the race.
"The way the sport is now and the way the testing is, it is so, so strict. Each rider has a blood passport where almost on a monthly basis, readings are taken," Froome said in an interview with Reuters TV the day after his triumph.
"People don't realize the amount of testing we actually go through. I am confident to say that cycling really must be one of the cleanest sports, if not the cleanest, just because of the way it's policed and controlled."
The Team Sky rider had to endure the inevitable questions about doping from the media during the three-week race.
"That did add an aspect, a different aspect to our race that not only were we thinking about the race and the challenges that presented but also that aspect off the bike of having to answer questions about our legitimacy and what we did to get to this point," the 28-year-old said.
"I completely understand those questions, it's normal given the revelations from Lance Armstrong's era. I am just happy that I have been able to answer those questions and to show people that the sport really has changed," Froome added.
Kenyan-born Froome now has his sights on September's world championships in Italy but believes this year's Tour win could be the first of many after he dominated the 100th edition of the race.
He became the second successive British winner of the Tour after Bradley Wiggins when he crossed the finish line on the Champs Elysees on Sunday to finish four minutes 20 seconds ahead of Colombian Nairo Quintana in the overall standings.
The mountainous route on this year's race suited Froome, who is a fantastic climber and a good time trailer, and he finished with three stage wins to his name.
"It is still a little bit early to be talking about that but the Tour de France is a beautiful race, it is the pinnacle of our cycling calendar and I would love to be back again to try and target future editions," he said.
(Writing by Alison Wildey in London; Editing by Clare Fallon)