Landis and Horner: We'd let Froome ride the Tour de France

'It's not about Froome, it's about the inconsistent application of the rules' says Landis

Floyd Landis has defended Chris Froome's right to participate in this year's Tour de France, calling on race organisers ASO and governing body the UCI to apply the rules fairly and consistently.

Froome and Team Sky were notified of ASO's intent to bar the rider from defending his title last week. A hearing will take place in the next three days to determine whether ASO will have their way, while the matter could potentially be put before the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

ASO's stance stems from Froome's ongoing salbutamol case, which has now moved into its 10th month. Landis has been heavily critical of both Team Sky and Chris Froome in the past, but he believes that the racing authorities need to adhere to their own rules. Under UCI rules, Froome can carry on racing despite returning an adverse analytical finding (AAF) at last year's Vuelta.

However, ASO can ban a rider or team under their own codes. They banned Astana from the Tour de France in 2008 due to a string of doping cases, but were unsuccessful in keeping Tom Boonen out of the race that same year after the rider tested positive for cocaine.

"He should be allowed to race," Landis told Cyclingnews. "If they have enough power to say that he can't now race, then ASO also have enough power to tell the UCI to fix the rules. ASO could have sent Froome and Sky the same email six months ago and said, 'If it's not cleared up by July, then we're not going to let you race,' and that would have given him enough time to litigate this.

"They knew that they were going to do this, but they've left it until the last moment in order to try to fuck him over. That's completely unfair of them. I never thought I'd be sitting here and defending Froome, but it's a joke now. If they're going to hold riders to a certain standard, then they need to get it right themselves."

Landis was speaking from Oregon, where he was visiting Chris Horner, a former teammate. Horner was part of the Astana team that was shut out of the Tour in 2008, and like Landis agreed that Froome should be on the start line of the Tour.

"I see it pretty simply," 2013 Vuelta winner Horner said. "I don't think he won the Vuelta because he was out of the limits, for whatever reason, but the rules are the rules, and they've got those rules in place. I don't see him as a Vuelta winner, but I do see him as a Giro winner and the rules state that he can start the Tour de France and other races until this who fiasco is sorted out.

"The rules say that if he can start, he can start, and if he can pass all the tests, then he can win. For me the idea of going back and taking stuff away, like they did with Contador, is wrong. For me Alberto didn't win that 2010 Tour but he did win the 2011 Giro."

"I would take it step further," Landis interjected, "because athletes are held to a strict standard and because there's no flexibility at all. Therefore the race organisers and the authorities have to follow the same standard. The athletes don't get any leeway. So neither should the Tour de France or the UCI. Otherwise what's the incentive for the riders to follow the rules? So let him race. It would be boring without him. He could win five… Let him do it," Landis said, before both he and Horner broke out in uncontrollable laughter.

"Remember, nobody yet knows why Froome was over the limit," a composed Horner added. "We can all guess, and say whatever. Nobody knows other than him. Possibly he took something, possibly he didn't. Now we're in July, but maybe the guy is innocent. You've got to let him start. ASO doesn't want it to look bad on their event."

Landis and Horner rode through a generation of doping scandals, and Landis saw his 2006 Tour title stripped away after a positive test for testosterone. Both individuals could see that the sport as a whole was becoming damaged by the ongoing Froome case, but again Landis stressed that the onus was on the rule-makers to apply governance fairly and without prejudice.

"I don't think it's done more damage than we've already seen," he said. "This is the sort of thing that led to the whole Postal Service story. The authorities covered things up, they let things go and then they tried to blame the athletes. Now they just want to keep doing that but they've got to take some responsibility on their side.

"It's not about Froome, it's about the inconsistent application of the rules. If they don't like the rules then they have the power to change them, but it's clear to me that they don't want to. They want to objectively select options so that they can dictate the outcome. I saw the Giro, and I understand why people aren't happy, but those are the rules."

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The 2018 Tour de France starts on July 9 and concludes on July 29 in Paris. Cyclingnews will have complete live coverage from the race, as well as race analysis, blogs, video highlights and podcasts from the team on the ground.

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