The director of the Giro d’Italia Mauro Vegni has said that the UCI must "sort out" Chris Froome's salbutamol case before the start of this year's Italian Grand Tour. He reiterated that he cannot accept a "compromise solution" that would allow Froome to ride and possibly win the Giro d'Italia only to lose his victory due to a positive anti-doping result from another race, which is what happened to Alberto Contador in 2011.
Vegni welcomed Froome's decision to ride the Giro d'Italia during the official presentation of the route on November 29. However, that was before Froome's Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for salbutamol emerged after an investigation by The Guardian and Le Monde on December 13.
Froome returned an AAF for salbutamol on September 7 at the 2017 Vuelta a España with twice the permitted level of the asthma drug found in his urine in a post-stage 18 test.
Given salbutamol is a 'specified' substance on WADA's prohibited list, Froome – who denies exceeding the permitted dosage - has not been provisionally suspended, but must now prove to the anti-doping authorities that his sample could have been skewed by other factors, such as dehydration and the proximity of his dose to his test.
Froome and Team Sky have yet to confirm when the four-time Tour de France winner will race in 2018, with Froome so far opting not to auto-suspend himself from competition. The Giro d'Italia remains on the table despite growing concerns about the fall-out his salbutamol case is causing to the sport.
Vegni made his call for a rapid solution while speaking to French sports newspaper L'Equipe in a special four-page report on the Froome case. L'Equipe suggested that Froome's defence may be based on the theory that his high level of salbutamol was due to an accumulation of the drug in his kidneys. Froome is currently training in South Africa but has not commented on his case since it emerged in December.
"We were really happy that Froome was going to ride our race. Now we have to hope that everything will be quickly clarified, for Froome, for the interests of the Giro and for cycling in general," Vegni told L'Equipe.
"I hope we'll soon have a final result but whatever happens, we can't accept a compromise solution as with Alberto Contador in 2011, where his win was cancelled from the record books for a positive test that happened in another race (the 2010 Tour de France).
"This time Froome's case emerged in September 2017. And the Giro starts in May 2018. That means there are eight months to find a solution. I want to believe that's enough time, otherwise, we have to despair about our ability to run our sport. The public wouldn't understand it and neither would I."
Public support can't be abused
In 1999, following the dramatic effects of the Festina Affair doping scandal at the 1998 Tour de France, the Tour de France organisers ASO declared that Festina team leader Richard Virenque was persona non grata. However, the UCI ordered ASO to allow Virenque to ride.
Vegni hopes to avoid a similar standoff in the weeks and days before the Giro d'Italia starts in Israel on May 4.
"I frankly hope that we don"t get to that point," Vegni said.
"It's not up to me to decide and apply the rules, organisers don't have that status in cases like this. It's up to Froome to prove things. Everything is in the hands of the UCI. They have to guarantee that everything will be sorted out between now and then.
"The Giro is a major race that attracts the attention of a vast public. That public support can't be abused."