Bernard Hinault has called for the peloton to go on strike if Chris Froome takes part in the Tour de France, which gets underway on July 7. Froome returned a positive test for salbutamol en route to victory at last year's Vuelta a España, but as salbutamol is a specified substance, the Team Sky rider is free to race until the case is resolved.
"The peloton should put its foot down and go on strike saying: 'If he's at the start, we're not starting!'" Hinault told Ouest France. "The peloton is too nice. Others have been sanctioned, and everybody was in agreement, but they won't sanction him because they say it was an abnormal control? No, it's not an abnormal control… Ventolin, perhaps it's not a big thing, perhaps that's not what won him the Vuelta a España, we don't know, but [at that level – ed.] it's banned, and that's it. The rules are the same for everybody…"
Froome's urine sample following stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta contained 2,000ng/ml of salbutamol, twice the permissible limit. He has denied any wrongdoing and insisted that he did not take more than the permitted number of puffs from his Ventolin inhaler.
The case has moved slowly since news of the positive test was leaked to media in December of last year, and Froome has continued to race in the intervening period. He won the Giro d'Italia last month, though it is still unclear if that victory – and his Vuelta win of 2017 – will endure in the record books.
Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has repeatedly called for the case to be resolved ahead of the Grand Départ, though UCI president David Lappartient recently conceded that it was unlikely a verdict would be reached before July 7. Last week, Froome was in the Alps to reconnoitre some of the Tour's mountain stages.
Hinault, a five-time Tour winner and previously an ambassador for ASO, has been firm in his opposition to Froome's participation at the Tour. On Wednesday, he compared Froome's case with that of Alberto Contador, who raced the 2011 Tour despite his positive test for clenbuterol the previous year. Contador was eventually sanctioned in February 2012 and handed a backdated two-year ban that saw him stripped of his results, including the 2010 Tour, the 2011 Giro and 5th place at the 2011 Tour.
"For me, Christopher Froome shouldn't be at the start of the Tour, simply because he was found positive – for me that's not an abnormal control!" Hinault said. "Contador was sanctioned for the same thing, he got a suspension and he [Froome] mightn't get anything.
"As always, some people don't know how to take the decision when they need to take it. The people from the UCI should have said, 'You were caught so you stay at home.' Contador could file a complaint. Tom Dumoulin, too, he finished second at the Giro behind Froome…"
Hinault's previous condemnation of Froome was criticised by Johan Bruyneel, who took to Twitter to call Hinault "Mister Short Memory." In 2013, Bruyneel received a ten-year ban for his part in the systematic doping programme in place on the US Postal Service and Discovery Channel teams. He was represented before the American Arbitration Association by Mike Morgan, who is representing Froome in his salbutamol case.
"Bruyneel told me to shut my mouth." Hinault told Ouest France. “He can shut it, because given what he did with [Lance] Armstrong, it would be better if he shut it…"