UCI President David Lappartient has said that Chris Froome's salbutamol case may not be concluded before Tour de France in July. Lappartient, who was voted in last September, told Cyclingnews that he had hoped the case would be resolved before the Giro d'Italia but now said that it could carry on through the French Grand Tour.
Lappartient was at the start of stage 17 in Riva del Garda. He posed for a photograph with race leader Simon Yates but suddenly slipped away from the podium area when Chris Froome signed on. The two have never talked in person, with Lappartient preferring to express his thoughts on the case via the media.
"We hope that it will be as soon as possible and I hope and call for a decision before the Tour for everybody, for his team, for the rider, for the UCI, for the fans and for the organiser," he told Cyclingnews at the Giro d'Italia where he was visiting stage 17. "We don't want to be in the situation where we don't have a decision before the Tour de France. At the beginning, I was expecting a decision before the Giro when we spoke about this in September, unfortunately, this wasn't the case. I don't know if we'll be able to have this before July."
Froome recorded more than twice the permitted levels of the asthma medication salbutamol in an anti-doping test performed in the final week of last year's Vuelta a Espana. Froome, who has denied any wrongdoing, is under investigation as a result and must prove that he did not exceed the permitted dosage. There are no time limits on the length of the investigation and Froome is allowed to compete as salbutamol is a specified substance rather than a banned one.
He is currently racing at the Giro d'Italia, where he lies in fourth place overall, and Lappartient says that, from a UCI standpoint, he will be able to compete at the Tour de France if the case has not reached its conclusion. However, he says that he still believes that Froome should voluntarily suspend himself. He also admits that Tour de France organiser ASO could prevent Froome from racing under their own regulations.
"Of course, regarding the UCI rules, if there is no decision before and there is no sanction then he has the opportunity to ride the Tour de France and we always will fully respect his right," said Lappartient. "I made a statement before that I consider the best way for everybody would be for him not to ride. I keep and maintain my position, however, we recognise that he has a right and we don't challenge this. But, on the other hand for the Tour de France, they have specific regulations with the potential way to declare that the rider will not be allowed to take part – but this is not under the UCI rules, this is a specific regulation of the event and image of the race.
"This is not what we want and it's not what the organiser wants. For me, this is better when the institution takes the decision and our jurisdiction bodies take the decision and we don't want the organiser to take the decision."
Though Froome is allowed to race while the investigation is on-going, it remains unclear whether or not his results will stand or be removed should it result in a suspension. The rules on the matter are unclear and reports have varied as to what might happen. Ahead of the Giro d'Italia, race director Mauro Vegni said that he'd received insurances from Lappartient that Froome's result would not be stripped. Lappartient later said that this was a misunderstanding and the UCI had no control over it.
"We spoke with Mauro about this because of course I never said there would be no sanction," Lappartient explained to Cyclingnews. "This is up to the anti-doping tribunal to decide what would be the possible or not possible decision and if the results in between would be withdrawn or not. I don't know what it will be so, of course, I cannot take a decision.
"It's not completely clear. Normally when we have a penalty or a suspension, usually you use the results in between but it's not automatic and if in this period you have all of the tests and all of them are negative there is also maybe no reason to have an issue. This is up to the jurisdiction of the UCI to decide but I know the feeling of Mauro and it was a misunderstanding. I never said that though, he will have no decision on this."
Big brother is watching
Lappartient also commented on the time penalties that were dished out by the video-assisted referee (VAR) at the end of Tuesday's time trial stage. Six riders, including Fabio Aru, were handed punishments for drafting. The VAR was introduced for this year after the furore over the decision to throw Peter Sagan out of last year's Tour de France.
"I would say big brother is clocking you," he said. "They have to understand that wherever they are in the race, we are watching what is happening and yesterday it was a demonstration of that. The video commissaire is very, very useful. I was a little bit surprised when I saw the results of the time trial so I understood after why. It demonstrates that we don't accept cheating in cycling."