Is The Tour De France Leader's Parasitic Infection Bullshit?

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Tour de France leader Chris Froome's backstory includes a three-year fight with a rare parasite, bilharzia, and his triumph over inconsistency caused by it to become one of the best riders in the world. One problem: The story might be bullshit.

A poster named justChris at the forums picked up on a recent piece on Froome's struggles and tore it to shreds. A brief accounting:

  • Bilharzia's not nearly as rare as Froome's team makes it out to be, as it's typically called schistomiasis, and affects hundreds of millions globally.
  • Froome wouldn't need the sort of extensive treatment his team's coach describes, because the treatment for schistomiasis is an annual oral dose of a drug, and he wouldn't have been limited in training because the side effects are minor.
  • If Froome were significantly more infested by the parasite—which usually finds its way into the human body through infected snails in contaminated water—than a single dose could cure, his symptoms would likely far outstrip the "little colds and coughs, nothing serious" he says he dealt with.
  • The parasite that causes schistomiasis lays eggs, but they couldn't hatch in the way Froome's coach describes.

justChris concludes with the ominous and/or adorable message "I'm not sure why they would lie to / misinform us about something like this..." While it's unclear that this has anything to do with Froome's performance, anyone with a passing familiarity with cycling, a sport so lousy with doping that, since 1954, more Tour de France winners have doped than not, can probably offer at least one good reason for an elaborate story of triumph over medical adversity. Heck, one might not have to look further than one's own wrist.


Photo: Laurent Rebors/AP Images