In Brief

2018 Tour de France: British cyclist Chris Froome appeals race ‘ban’

Tour organisers ASO don’t want a repeat of the Lance Armstrong scandal

Chris Froome’s hopes of competing in this year’s Tour de France are in doubt after he was barred from the race by the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), the tour organisers.

Although the Kenyan-born British rider has appealed the decision, The Guardian says that “the mood in France is hardening against Team Sky”. 

Froome’s supporters, and British cycling enthusiasts in general, might claim that it’s a desperate attempt by the French to prevent the four-time winner adding another title to his collection, but that overlooks the trauma still felt in France by the Lance Armstrong affair.

As the Guardian notes, Tour de France organisers now acknowledge they were “made fools of” by the American and they don’t want a repeat. It’s also about what image they want to project, and allowing a rider tainted by doping allegations wouldn’t sit well with the Tour’s commercial partners.

Twice the permitted level of the asthma drug salbutamol was found in his system last year, but Froome denied any wrongdoing. This morning the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) issued a statement saying anti-doping proceedings involving Froome “have now been closed”.

In January the president of the UCI, the Frenchman David Lappartient, called on Team Sky to suspend Froome, which they didn’t, and in February Christian Prudhomme, the director of the Tour, voiced his disquiet about Froome’s situation.

“We need a response, for all race organisers, so that there isn’t a rider that they’ll say later shouldn’t have been at the start,” said Prudhomme. “It’s mad, completely grotesque.”

Yet Team Sky, says the Guardian, are dismissive of the furore, despite “the damning findings of the DCMS select committee report” in March that portrayed them in a dubious light. Nonetheless there is a strong chance Froome will win his appeal and be cleared to compete when the race starts on Saturday in the Vendée. 

How he will be received by the French is another matter. The Guardian says that “in France there is little interest in listening to Froome’s point of view”, and one of the rival team bosses, Marc Madiot of Groupama-FDJ, has praised ASO for its stance.

“I pay tribute to what ASO is doing,” he said. “It would be better for him not to be there for the general quietness of the Tour.” 

Neither ASO nor Team Sky has commented on the situation but Froome’s wife, Michelle, also his agent, stated at the weekend that “Chris will ride the Tour”.

UCI closes case against Froome

In a statement issued this morning, the UCI has confirmed that the anti-doping proceedings involving Froome “have now been closed”.

The statement read: “Whilst the UCI would have obviously preferred the proceedings to have been finalised earlier in the season, it had to ensure that Mr Froome had a fair process, as it would have done with any other rider, and that the correct decision was issued. Having received WADA’s position on 28 June 2018, the UCI prepared and issued its formal reasoned decision as quickly as possible in the circumstances.

“The UCI understands that there will be significant discussion of this decision, but wishes to reassure all those involved in or interested in cycling that its decision is based on expert opinions, WADA’s advice, and a full assessment of the facts of the case.

“The UCI hopes that the cycling world can now turn its focus to, and enjoy, the upcoming races on the cycling calendar.”

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