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Will Chris Froome be allowed to keep his result from the Giro d’Italia once his ongoing salbutamol violation is adjudicated by an arbitration panel?
Well, it’s complicated.
On Thursday, during the official race presentation press conference in Jerusalem, Giro d’Italia director Mauro Vegni insisted he had assurances from UCI president David Lappartient that Froome would not be stripped of his Giro result even if he is ultimately suspended for elevated levels of salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a España.
Froome was informed of his adverse analytical finding from Stage 18 of the Vuelta a España on September 20 while he was in Norway for the world championship. He rejected a voluntary suspension that would have allowed any ban he might have received to the date of his provisional suspension; instead, he went on to take a bronze medal in the world time-trial championship.
Froome now starts the Giro d’Italia as a major pre-race favorite who could ultimately be suspended in the months that follow the race — putting Giro organizers in a highly unsavory position.
“I spoke with Lappartient … he clearly said if Froome were to win the Giro then the Giro [victory] would remain assigned to him,” Vegni told reporters. “We spoke with [Lappartient] to say [Froome] should lose the Vuelta [if convicted of an anti-doping violation] because he was tested during the Vuelta and so that’s taken away. Lappartient showed himself to be willing with regards our reasoning and in a way he let me know that there wouldn’t be a problem for the Giro.”
That, however, is not how things work. If Froome’s anti-doping violation is upheld, his results would be stripped from the day of the violation through the length of the sanction he is given.
And either way, that’s a decision made not by Vegni, nor Lappartient, but rather by the UCI Anti Doping Tribunal and its interpretation of World Anti-Doping Agency Code.
The UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal is an independent tribunal established by the UCI in 2015 to decide whether a rider has committed an Anti-Doping Rule Violation and what the applicable sanction shall be.
WADA Code Article 10.8 states that “In addition to the automatic disqualification of the results in the competition which produced the positive Sample, all other competitive results of the athlete obtained from the date a positive sample was collected through the commencement of any provisional suspension or ineligibility period, shall, unless fairness requires otherwise, be disqualified with all of the resulting consequences including forfeiture of any medals, points and prizes.”
“Unless fairness requires otherwise” is, of course, the operative term.
Fairness, of course, is subjective, and why these matters are ultimately decided by three-person arbitration panels — first at the UCI Anti Doping Tribunal, and if appealed, at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). Decisions made by the UCI Anti Doping Tribunal can be appealed to CAS not only by the rider and the UCI, but also by the rider’s national anti-doping organization as well as by WADA.
All this led the UCI to issue a tweet a few hours later, clarifying that the UCI President is “not in a position to decide when a potential suspension for any anti-doping rule violation should start and whether results obtained before the starting point of a suspension should be annulled or maintained.”
As for Froome, the Team Sky rider is urging fans not to “make up their minds just yet” as he continues his bid to clear his name.
“I would say to people ‘don’t make up your minds just yet,'” the British rider told Sky News in Jerusalem ahead of Friday’s opening stage. “Wait until you have all the information. That information will come eventually.
“It’s a difficult situation for me to be in because it’s meant to be a confidential process and there’s a process in place for me to demonstrate I have done nothing wrong,” Froome continued. “We’re in the middle of that process. But it’s not something I can give a running commentary on, the exact details, the timeline. But I’m confident that when we get to the end of the case, I’m confident people will see it from my point of view when all the details are made public.”