UCI President David Lappartient has said that Team Sky should suspend Chris Froome while the investigation into his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol is on-going. Lappartient said that pulling Froome from racing was nothing to do with whether he was guilty or not but that it would make the process simpler.
"Team Sky should suspend Froome," Lappartient told Le Telegramme. “However, it is not up to me to interfere. Without going into the question of guilt, it would be simpler for everyone.
"It's up to [Dave] Brailsford to take his responsibilities. Apart from that, I think that it is what the other riders wish. They're fed up with the general image."
Lappartient is just four months into his four-year term as UCI president after resoundingly beating his predecessor Brian Cookson in a vote held at the UCI Road World Championships in Bergen last September. The Frenchman said that he was informed of the ongoing case just an hour after he won the vote, a day after Froome was notified of the findings on September 20.
Lappartient said that the case was bad for the general image of cycling. "Whether the test result is abnormal or not, either naturally or fraudulently, it's awful: in the eyes of the wider public he's already guilty."
Froome returned an adverse analytical finding for 2,000mg/ml of the asthma medication salbutamol during last year's Vuelta a España. Salbutamol can be taken without a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) but has an upper limit of 1,000ng/ml. As it is a specified substance rather than a banned substance, it does not carry an automatic suspension and riders can continue to race while the investigation is on-going. Teams can temporarily suspend their riders, however, as happened in the case of Diego Ulissi in 2014.
Lappartient, who has been in Australia for the 2018 Oceania Cycling Confederation (OCC) Annual General Meeting, recently told the Swiss publication Neue Zürcher Zeitung that it was important to protect the rights of riders. He said that, despite accusations from some, there was no special treatment for Froome but admitted that it would be easier if he didn't race while he was under investigation.
Froome must now demonstrate that he did not exceed the permitted dosage of salbutamol, despite the levels found in his sample. To do so, Froome and his legal team will need to supply the UCI with supporting documentation and Froome will have to undergo a series of lab tests. It is an intricate process, which took eight months for Ulissi - who was subsequently banned - and Lappartient says that it could take as long as a year to resolve, if not more.
"It's going to be a judicial battle that will last a long time. This affair won't be sorted out in two minutes, it could last at least a year," he said.
Froome is set to ride the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France this season, although he has not yet announced his programme prior to these races.