Team Sky has pushed back one day after Bernard Hinault called for riders to strike in protest at Chris Froome’s participation in the Tour de France, blasting the five-time Tour winner for his comments.
Hinault was speaking to the French publication Ouest France and made clear his opposition to Froome riding in July. “For me, Christopher Froome must not be at the start of the Tour. Very simply because he has been tested positive; for me it is not an abnormal control!” he said. “The people from the UCI should have said, ‘you have been caught, so you stay home.’
“The peloton has to dismount and go on strike saying, ‘if he is at the start, we do not leave! The peloton is too nice. We have condemned others, everyone was in agreement, and he, we will not condemn him because they say he has an abnormal control? No, it’s not [just] an abnormal control. Ventolin, it is perhaps not a huge thing, it is perhaps not that which made him win the Vuelta a Espana, we do not know. But [at this dose], it is forbidden. So that’s it. The rules are the same for everyone.”
Team Sky issued a statement on Thursday which strongly rejected Hinault’s reasoning.
“It is disappointing that Bernard Hinault has, once again, repeated factually incorrect comments about a case he clearly does not understand,” a spokesperson said. “His comments are irresponsible and ill-informed. Chris has not had a positive test, rather an adverse analytical finding for a prescribed asthma medication. As an ex-rider himself, Bernard will appreciate the need for fairness for each and every athlete. And at the current time, Chris is entitled to race.”
The UCI has said it cannot block Froome’s participation under current WADA rules. The Briton provided a urine sample at last year’s Vuelta a España which contained twice the permitted maximum level of Salbutamol. However, because it is a controlled substance, he is allowed to keep racing until disciplinary proceedings have concluded.
“This process would normally be confidential to protect the athlete and establish the facts,” Team Sky continued. “Unfortunately, it was leaked. However, both Chris and the team are following the process that has been put in place by the UCI. It is clearly a difficult situation which no one wants resolved more quickly than Chris and the team.
“Chris and Team Sky are fully-focused on the upcoming Tour de France and won’t let these uneducated comments affect our preparation for the greatest race in the world.”
Hinault previously worked for Tour organisers ASO but retired from that position. The French company has reportedly been considering blocking Froome, using a rule which safeguard’s the event’s image from potential damage. However more recently race director Christian Prudhomme said the decision was the UCI’s to make.