UCI president: Team Sky's behaviour is damaging cycling

UCI President David Lappartient has said that Team Sky's behaviour in relation to Chris Froome's positive test for salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana is damaging cycling.

The head of the UCI has already stated that Team Sky should have provisionally suspended their four-time Tour de France winner while the case is pending. However, Froome and Team Sky have not made any move to do so. Despite knowledge of his positive test, Froome has announced publicly that he will aim to race the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France. The news of the positive test – which showed that Froome had double the legal limit for salbutamol in his system - only surfaced after the Guardian and Le Monde published a joint story in December.

With no date set in relation to a resolution in Froome's case the situation could rumble on for weeks, potentially months.

"I can't force them," Lappartient said in relation to Team Sky not benching their franchise rider.

"With the rules they have the right to race him. It's up to them to decide but if he wins some races then it could be bad if he's sanctioned after. That's why I think it would be better for them to decrease the pressure by having him not riding at the moment."

Lapparient, elected last autumn, was speaking at the Tour Down Under and when asked specifically by Cyclingnews if Sky's behaviour was damaging the sport, the Frenchman paused, before stating: "What do you think? Of course, yes. When this happened you could see the newspapers and the internet, that cycling was going back to its past. I saw one newspaper from Brittany and the first page was Froome. And this wasn't a sports newspaper and that was the same in many countries. It's bad for cycling but as I've said, we also got be careful because Froome has the opportunity to defend his position. However, this is bad for the image of cycling."

The UCI is not in a position to sanction Froome at this point, but Lappartient – who said that he has not specifically talked to Team Sky about the matter – was clearly frustrated with the situation. One of his main policies when coming into office was to build on cycling's fragile credibility. The uncertainty over Froome's position threatens that.

"Chris Froome has the right to explain his point of view and defend his situation. This can take time but we have to follow this. We can't be in a hurry and make a mistake. I don't know how long it will take but I hope that it will be solved as soon as possible, for him, us and cycling. I don't know but with the appeals it could take a year. I hope that it's less but it depends.

"It's possible he could be riding the Tour. It's possible he could be sanctioned after. That's happened."

When a journalist suggested that this would be a 'crazy' situation, Lapartient agreed but added that he would support Giro and Tour organisers if they were to refuse Froome the opportunity to compete in those races while the case was still ongoing.

"It's down to RCS and ASO. I know that some organisers, in their rules, in case that there are problems with the image of their race, they can propose to refuse. That could go to CAS."

"I think so," he said when asked if he would support RCS and ASO.

"I think that the best thing for him is not to ride. If RCS go in this direction, I can only agree. That's why I hope it's resolved and if he's not guilty, then he will start in races. We have to respect the rules and it's a heavy case. Of course, I want to accelerate it but it will take the time it takes."

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