Vuelta a España race director Javier Guillen has called for a resolution to the Chris Froome salbutamol case before the start of the 2018 edition on August 25. Froome won last year’s Vuelta, but risks being stripped of the title after returning a positive test for salbutamol following stage 18.
As salbutamol is a specified substance, Froome is free to race until the case is resolved. The Team Sky rider won the Giro d’Italia last month and looks set to line out at the Tour de France in July.
“What is absolutely necessary for the 2018 Vuelta is to start out knowing who has won the Vuelta of 2017,” Guillen said in a press conference, according to Marca. “We can’t be in the position a year later of not knowing what has happened.”
If Froome were to be sanctioned with a doping offence and stripped of his Vuelta title, Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) would enter the record books as the winner of the 2017 Vuelta.
When news of Froome’s salbutamol case first broke last December, Vuelta organiser Unipublic said that its position was one “of extreme caution.” Froome’s anti-doping sample contained twice the permissible threshold of salbutamol, but the case has proven to be a protracted one, with no resolution in sight some nine months on from the 2017 Vuelta.
“Froome has won the Giro and we do not know what will happen with the rest of the races that he can ride. I get the feeling that with the passing of time it becomes more complicated,” Guillen said. “I do not know what we would do [if Froome were to ride the Vuelta – ed.] but I do know that the Vuelta must know who won in 2017 before the 2018 edition begins.
“Time is not helping us. The winner of the Vuelta should have been known at the end of 2017 and it could not be. It should have been known before the Giro d'Italia and was not.
“I hope that it is known before the Tour de France, but I do not have any more information about it. It is a topic that should be resolved for the good of the Tour, for the sake of Sky, but above all for the good of cycling in general. The Tour is the most important event, it reaches many millions of spectators and I think we all deserve to have a resolution.”
Guillen could not confirm which riders will line out at the 2018 Vuelta, but he expressed satisfaction at the likely participation of Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) and Fabio Aru (UAE-Team Emirates). He also looks for a strong representation of Spanish riders.
“For me, the ideal situation is to have a Spanish rider fighting against one or more foreign riders,” Guillen said.
Guillen added that he was in favour of introducing innovations to the race, and to cycling in general, such as the “grid start” of stage 17 of this year’s Tour de France.
“It seems to me to be a brilliant idea, a great idea, an idea of such simplicity that you say, ‘And why has it not occurred to others before?’” Guillen said.