Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford has criticised UCI President David Lappartient, accusing the Frenchman of a nationalistic bias and a failure to grasp the responsibilities of his role, instead being stuck in a "local French mayor kind of mentality".
Lappartient was elected as the head of the sport's governing body in September, a fortnight after Chris Froome had returned a positive test for salbutamol at the Vuelta a España. A nine-month procedure ensued, played out in public after the news was leaked to the press, and on the evidence so far at the Tour de France, the controversy hasn't cleared despite Froome being absolved on Monday.
The UCI issued a statement this week setting out a few more details of the Froome case – though a thorough view of the reasons behind the decision remains absent – and Lappartient has spoken to media at the Tour de France, denying the UCI leaked the salbutamol news and then suggesting Team Sky's wealth helped them fight off any charges.
Speaking to reporters in Mouilleron-Saint-Germain ahead of stage 2 of the Tour de France, Brailsford was hard-hitting in his assessment of Lappartient's conduct.
"I gave him the benefit of the doubt when he started. I thought OK he's new to the job, he obviously doesn't quite understand the responsibilities of a presidential role," Brailsford said.
"I think he's still got the local French mayor kind of mentality maybe," he added, referring to Lappartient's involvement in French politics and role as mayor of Sarzeau in Brittany, where stage 4 of this Tour de France will finish on Tuesday.
Since he took up his role, Lappartient – in contrast to his predecessor Brian Cookson – has rarely shied away from speaking to the media, though Brailsford seemed nonplussed by some of his assertions, and even accused him of bias.
"It would be better if he was clear. He has contradicted himself a few times with some of the things he's saying. One minute it's 'we can release stuff', the next minute it's 'we can't'," Brailsford said.
"If you want to be the president of an international federation, protect everyone in that international community. Don't take a French angle, or a nationalistic view on the international community, protect the international community with no bias. And I think he’s still learning that really. The quicker he can get there and learn what a president of an international federation's responsibilities are, the better it will be for everyone, but he’s got some work to do."
Lappartient caused a stir on the eve of the Tour de France when he told the BBC that Team Sky’s wealth had helped them fight the salbutamol case, their rich resources enabling them to hire an army of lawyers and experts. The inference was that riders in the same position in the past – such as Diego Ulissi and Alessandro Petacchi – had essentially been priced out of justice.
Brailsford, however, dismissed the UCI president's logic.
"If I was in charge of the UCI, I'd want to attract the biggest sponsors, get major international sponsors to come in. I would be attracting the big guys. I wouldn't be somehow criticising them for their resources," Brailsford said.
"You should be getting more resources into the sport, and if those resources enable you to refine or test some of the regulations where other riders who haven't got the funds would have a false positive, then I'd be looking at that and saying 'thanks very much for that investment, we can use this and keep developing everything to make sure our rules are better'.
"If we're looking to protect innocent riders, then we don't want false positives. If someone can help support that then well done. I wouldn't be taking another angle which is 'well it's one rule for one and one rule for another'."
Releasing the salbutamol data
If the salbutamol case is still a source of controversy, with a hostile reception and security concerns for Froome and Team Sky at the start of the Tour de France, it is perhaps because the full details of the reasoning behind the verdict have not been made public.
Both the UCI and WADA have released some information beyond their original statements, but a full Reasoned Decision has not been released. On Team Sky's side, Brailsford revealed this week that some of the evidence they provided as part of their defence would be published in scientific literature, but made clear that the team would not be sharing the evidence that ultimately saw Froome cleared.
Writing a guest column in French newspaper Le Monde this week, Froome called on WADA to release more information in a bid to quell the lingering doubts, and Brailsford similarly asserted that the responsibility for transparency does not lie with Team Sky but with the UCI and WADA.
"It's their responsibility, it's their laws, their judgements. And it seems Chris in particular, and us as a secondary factor, paid a price for their rules," he said.
"You look at the reaction of some elements of the French public, for someone who's innocent that was pretty difficult to take on board. But equally, it's their responsibility and they should come out and absolutely explain why they made the decision they did.
"They're the authorities, they're independent and you rely on their independence and the scrutiny that if they say 'yes there's nothing there', then everyone can go 'yeah we believe in that'. If they say 'yes there's nothing there' and people don't believe it, they come to us and say 'well, explain yourselves'.
"We didn't make the decision, we could explain ourselves, don't get me wrong, but what I'm saying is that really, the onus is on them to continue to explain themselves, and if it's felt that explanation hasn't gone far enough or isn't full enough then keep on doing it."