Mauro Vegni, the organiser of the Giro d’Italia, has told Cyclingnews that Chris Froome is welcome at the 2018 Italian Grand Tour but warned that he will not accept Froome losing overall victory if he wins the Giro but is then disqualified due to his salbutamol case from the 2017 Vuelta a Espana.
Vegni is determined to avoid a repeat of the 2011 Contador affair, when the Spaniard tested positive at the 2010 Tour de France, won the 2011 Giro d’Italia, only to be disqualified from the Corsa Rosa results as part as his doping sanction.
Team Sky has announced that Froome will return to racing at next week’s Ruta del Sol as he tries to clear his name and explain why more than double the allowed limit of salbutamol was found in a urine sample taken after stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana. Because salbutamol is a specified substance, Froome is allowed to continue to race until the case is resolved, although the UCI president David Lappartient and a number of riders have called on Froome and Team Sky to avoid racing during the investigation.
Froome’s race programme will reportedly include Tirreno-Adriatico (March 7-13) and then the Tour of the Alps (April 16-20). The Giro d’Italia starts in Israel on Friday, May 4.
Vegni is resigned to allowing Froome to ride the Giro d’Italia but is angry that the case is dragging on without a verdict in sight.
“If Froome can start the Giro d’Italia, he can start. I can’t stop him because otherwise I’d be infringing on his right to race,” Vegni told Cyclingnews at the Dubai Tour.
“Froome is welcome at the Giro d’Italia, but if he then wins the pink jersey, he’ll always be the winner for me, even he is suspended and disqualified from the results. I’m not going to remove a rider’s name from the roll of honour of the Giro d’Italia and then present the trophy and pink jersey to another rider a year later like we had to do after the Contador case.
Vegni struggled to hide his disappointment that neither Team Sky nor the UCI informed him about Froome’s salbutamol Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) before announcing his presence at the 2018 Giro d’Italia on November 29. Froome’s case was confirmed on December 13 after an investigation and report by the Guardian and Le Monde newspapers.
Vegni recently called for the UCI to ‘sort out’ the Froome case and certify that he can ride the Giro d’Italia without the fear of later losing his victory.
“I’m following things closely and waiting for him to resolves his problems. The key issue here is the time needed for the case. Five months have gone by and were still waiting to understand if certain expert evidence is admissible or not. This stuff should have been sorted out four months ago,’ Vegni argued.
“If you have a (doping) problem at a race, then you should lose that result and be banned. But there can’t be a year in limbo, where if you win a race while awaiting a verdict, you don’t know if you’ll always be considered the eventual winner or if you not. If we’re going to have any kind of credibility in this sport, we’ve got to have a rule where a ban starts, a rider serves their time and that’s it. Anything else is senseless.
“It shouldn’t be up to the riders, teams or race organisers to speak out and find a solution, it’s up to the international governing body to take the right decisions. Lets hope they do so quickly to have some credibility.
“If rules have to be changed then so be it. Rules can be be changed. We’ve got to be intelligent and learn from our problems. Out of respect for the fans of the sport and everyone involved, we’ve got to know who the winner of a race is."