Former French sports minister and double Olympic Judo champion David Douillet has described the prospect of the Tour de France going ahead this summer as "madness" and a "crime against humanity".
Douillet, who won Olympic gold at the Atlanta and Sydney Olympics, was French sports minister under former President Nicolas Sarkozy from 2011 to 2012.
"God knows I am a fan of the Tour de France, I never miss a stage every summer," he said before going on to attack Tour promoter ASO's plan to stage the race while Covid-19 remains a crisis in global public health.
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"I know that there are financial stakes but there are too many risks," the 51-year-old said in an interview with France TV.
"If we have enough means to ensure that all the players in the Tour and the public can be tested and are all negative, then why not, but that's not very likely, so it can't happen. There is no vaccine, nothing, and people are dying."
Douillet compared the Tour's plans to the recent municipal elections in France, held shortly before lockdown came into effect.
"I was furious to see that the local elections went ahead and to hear some voices supporting that — even people from my old political family that I know well — but it's monstrous. I'm not scared of saying that it's a crime against humanity.
"For me, organising the Tour in these conditions is at the same level," Douillet said. "It's madness."
The former Olympic champion's comments come as speculation is increasing that the Tour's date may now be moved to late July after race director Christian Prudhomme said that the Tour "would not take place behind closed doors".
However, with mortality rates from the Coronovirus pandemic still at high levels across Europe, racing cancelled until at least June 1, and a draconian lockdown still in place in France, it is still too early to establish exactly when the Tour might take place.
Currently, a deadline of May 15 has been set by ASO for a decision on the scheduling of this year's race, although some reports have been suggesting that a revised Grand Départ has been proposed for July 25.
Prudhomme's most recent comments may, however, have gone some way to calming Douillet's outrage after he told Sports-Auvergne.fr that "everything depends on what happens with the pandemic".
"There's only one thing that I want, and that's that the Tour de France takes place this summer," Prudhomme said. "That's not for the Tour de France's sake; more that if it doesn't take place, it'll mean that the country is in a catastrophic situation, which we really hope isn't the case."