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by Shane Stokes
July 4, 2018
Photography by Shane Stokes
UCI President David Lappartient has confirmed that the governing body had to follow suit once WADA cleared Chris Froome over his adverse analytical finding for Salbutamol. The investigation into the Briton was dropped on Monday and, according to Lappartient, WADA was the main driver in this decision.
“This case has been closed because the UCI received a statement from the World Anti-Doping Agency in which they clearly said that they accepted the explanation transmitted by Mr Christopher Froome…that the case does not constitute an anti-doping rule violation,” he said.
Lappartient was speaking in a video interview published on the UCI’s YouTube channel. He said that once WADA made its decision, that there would only be one course of action.
“An international federation such as the UCI has to follow the World Anti-Doping Agency. They are the experts on this and their experts finally decided that this case was not an anti-doping rule violation. So we had to follow the decision from the WADA.”
Monday’s dropping of the case came one day after Tour de France organisers ASO said that they would block Froome from their race. The French company planned to use Article 29 of its regulations, which enables it to prevent the participation of anyone who could potentially damage the image of the event.
That decision was appealed by Team Sky, and was due to be heard on Tuesday by the French Olympic Committee.
Monday’s announcement by the UCI – which was followed afterwards by WADA’s own announcement – led ASO to drop its restriction on the rider.
Lappartient was asked if the UCI statement was simply a reaction to ASO’s position. “I know that this can be the feeling of many fans and stakeholders of cycling, because we had a statement and the day after we have another statement. One statement from ASO, and one from the UCI,” he said.
“But, in fact, there is no link between these two facts. We were informed at the UCI by ASO that they have decided to apply with article 29 of their regulation and to refuse Mr Christopher Froome from their race. But due to the fact that we received a statement from WADA on the 28th [saying it believed Froome had no case to answer – ed.], we had been able to make a decision before the Tour de France. But there is no link between the two facts.”
Asked if ASO had been informed that a decision would be taken prior to the Tour, he confirmed this was the case. He said that once the UCI received the information from WADA on June 28, it told the race organiser that a ruling was on the way.
Since then, there have been a wide range of reactions from fans and others; Lappartient acknowledged that some of these have been strong, but said that he wasn’t surprised. “It is probably due to the passion around cycling,” he said. “The fans want to have a clean sport, they want to have the decision with Chris Froome as guilty.
“Because after the leak in December, for many of them he was guilty. So they were expecting the UCI to take the same decision as their feeling. But the UCI has to follow some rules, some strict rules, and [give] the possibility for him to defend his point of view. And due to the fact the decision did not find him guilty, of course I was expecting to have this kind of reaction [from them].
“But I have to say that I also saw a lot of reaction from fans who understood what would be the reason to have such a decision.”
Asked to comment further on the reactions and to give his personal opinion on them, Lappartient said that he disagreed with some of them.
“I think some of them were too extreme. To call some times to fight, not to respect. And against the UCI, against the institution, against the rider himself. I think this is not acceptable. That is also why I want to explain, maybe in more detail, why we had to take this decision in line with the WADA statement.”
Lappartient said that he didn’t take any of the reactions personally, even if he prefers not to be in such a situation. However he said that he was affected by the reactions against the governing body of which he is president.
He said that those reactions didn’t sit well with him as he believes the governing body is doing everything it can to help the sport.
“The UCI is really the international federation of anti-doping,” he said. “We are doing a lot of things. We are in front of the bunch on this. We took some strong statements about two weeks ago in the management committee against Tramadol, glucocorticoids and everything. [The UCI said it will ban both substances from the start of 2019].
“To have people criticising the UCI…I don’t like this. Because it is not true, it is not fair, and that is not the reality. We are really fighting against doping, we are doing what we have to do. And they can count on me and on the UCI to continue to have a clean sport.
“We have done a lot of things with X-ray machines to fight against technological fraud. So they can trust the UCI, even if it is maybe not their feeling today.”
Lappartient was then asked if the difference between the previous strong statement against Tramadol and glucocorticoids and Chris Froome’s clearing might prove confusing to some.
“At the moment, yes,” he acknowledged. “Because of course the fans, the stakeholders, the media, on the week before the start of the Tour de France they are completely focussed on this Chris Froome affair. And it is difficult to explain that we are fighting against doping with new substances to be banned, and in the meantime to take the decision to close the Froome case.
“But we had to take this decision. But on the other hand, we have also to fight and to be sure that nobody will cheat, and they can’t use Tramadol and corticoids and so on. So we will continue to do what we have to do to ensure that our sport will be clean.”
Watch the UCI video here, or read on below for a transcript of the remaining answers:
Q: This proceeding lasted more than nine months. Why did it take so long?
I can understand that for many people it was very long to wait. But we have, first of all, to respect the rights of Mr Froome to defend his own case, to prove that he’s not guilty. And the case was also so difficult that many explanations were transmitted to the UCI and we have also to bring many experts on this to look at the files that were transmitted to the UCI.
You had announced that it would be difficult to have a decision before the Tour de France. What explains this announcement this week?
It is true that I always said that, because we were more in a calendar with a decision after the summer. But two points. First of all, we received the final documents, the final explanation from Mr Christopher Froome on the fourth of June. And in line with this, we received the statement from WADA on the 28th of June. So, we had then all the elements to close the case. And in between the 28th June and the third of July, it was a short period of time for the UCI to conclude and to follow the statement from WADA.
That also demonstrates that the UCI wanted to go as soon possible after the decision from the stakeholders and from WADA.
You said that you wanted to engage in discussions with the World Anti-Doping Agency to introduce a number of changes. Can you tell us what are those changes?
Different changes. The first one is to introduce on the list Tramadol and glucocorticoids. That is very important for us. Of course, we asked many times to have this. This has been refused by the experts from WADA. I hope it will be the case in the future, because as an example, 65 percent of the cases of Tramadol in the world are in cycling.
So Tramadol is used in cycling. We have the same for corticoids. I am not speaking for other sports, I just want to have these substances on the list for cycling. So this is a request we have, this is what we want to do.
We want to also have a provisional suspension when you have an abnormal or positive case, but mandatory and not in like with the potential decision from the international federation. So I think there are many chances to improve the fight against doping.
What message would you like to address to cycling fans?
I would like to tell them that they can trust the UCI. We will do what we have to do to clean this sport. But they also have to respect the decision. This decision is based on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s statement. And we have to respect their decision too, in line with their experts.
You know when you have the right to defend yourself. It is not to be always guilty; if the explanations are correct, then the experts say to WADA that these explanations are acceptable, and then we have to follow this decision.
So they have to respect the decision to close the case. But they have also to respect all the riders. And they have to respect, among all of the, Christopher Froome. I was really upset to see that some fans on Twitter and social media called for a fight during the Tour de France.
This is clearly unacceptable and my mission as president of the UCI is also to protect all the riders. And Chris Froome has no more right that the other riders, but he has not less rights than the other riders. So we must respect all of them. I am sure we will have a wonderful Tour de France.
Opinion: Why WADA and the UCI’s handling of the Froome case is damaging to sport