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French cycling great Bernard Hinault ripped Chris Froome (Sky) in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws on Tuesday.
Never afraid to speak his mind, “The Badger” took issue with Froome deciding to race the Giro d’Italia while in the middle of an ongoing anti-doping case.
“He should never have been allowed to start in the Giro,” Hinault said. “Why do we have to wait so long for a verdict? Those two Italians [Diego Ulissi and Alessandro Petacchi] who had the same thing were suspended much faster. With what right does Froome get so much time to come up with an explanation? Is it because Sky has so much money?”
Froome returned an adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a España. Although riders are allowed to use a certain amount of the anti-asthma drug — making it a “specified” but not completely banned substance — Froome returned a urine test putting him at double the allowable amount.
That test triggered a process whereby Froome has a chance to present evidence to anti-doping authorities to explain his adverse result. Should the UCI’s anti-doping tribunal decide against him, Froome would face a suspension and would have his Vuelta win stripped.
Froome’s legal team has been working since last year to build his case. While the matter remains unresolved, he is within his legal rights to continue racing, much to Hinault’s chagrin.
Having won the Giro, Froome’s next target is the Tour de France. He is hunting a fourth consecutive title, and fifth career win, in the sport’s biggest event this July. As it stands, he plans to race the Tour. That could change if anti-doping authorities reach a decision in his case before the event kicks off on July 7, but that is looking increasingly less likely.
UCI president David Lappartient said recently that there is a 50-50 chance Froome’s case won’t be wrapped up before the start. If it isn’t, race organizer ASO may still attempt to keep him from racing, but that will almost certainly trigger a legal challenge from Froome’s camp.
“This is all very sad. Froome is not part of the legend of this sport,” Hinault said. “What image is he giving cycling? He may also start in the Tour later. It is a real scandal. This has to stop.”
A win at the upcoming Tour would propel Froome into a league of his own, marking his fourth consecutive grand tour win. Froome’s Giro victory made him one of a rare few riders to have even won three consecutive grand tour titles, alongside only Hinault and Eddy Merckx.
For Hinault, Froome is not a deserving member of that elite company.
“Froome does not belong in that list,” Hinault said. “He has returned a positive test in the Vuelta and afterwards his B-sample proved positive, so he has doped and he has to be suspended.”