Bernard Hinault has not held back in his opinion on Chris Froome's Giro d’Italia victory, saying that the Team Sky rider does not belong in the history books alongside himself and Eddy Merckx. In Rome on Sunday, Froome joined Hinault and Merckx in winning all three Grand Tours consecutively, having won last year’s Tour de France and Vuelta a España.
Hinault, who completed his achievement across the 1982 and 1983 seasons, went as far as saying that Froome should not have even been on the start line.
"Froome does not belong on that list," Hinault said, according to Belgian publication Het Laatste Nieuws. "He returned a positive test at the Vuelta and afterwards his B-sample proved positive, so he has used doping and he has to be suspended.
"He should never have been allowed to start in the Giro. Why do we have to wait so long for a verdict? Those two Italians who had the same thing [Alessandro Petacchi and Diego Ulissi -ed.] were suspended much faster. With what right does Froome get so much time to find an explanation? Is it because Sky has so much money?"
Froome is currently under investigation after an anti-doping test during the 2017 Vuelta a España, which he went on to win, showed him to have double the permitted levels of the asthma drug salbutamol in his urine.
Froome and his legal team must now prove that he did not exceed the allowed dosage in order to avoid a suspension. As salbutamol is a 'specified' substance on WADA's banned list, Froome is allowed to compete while the investigation is going on. Both Petacchi and Ulissi received bans for elevated levels of salbutamol. It took nine months for a verdict to be reached in Ulissi’s case.
Last week, UCI president David Lappartient told Cyclingnews that he could not guarantee that Froome’s case would be resolved by the time the Tour de France begins in July. He could also not confirm whether or not the results that Froome earns during the time of the investigation will remain or be removed if he is handed a suspension.
"This is all very sad," added Hinault. "Froome is not part of the legend of the sport, because what image does he give cycling? He may also start the Tour later. It’s a real scandal. This has to stop."