Bernard Hinault has launched a stinging attack on Chris Froome, claiming the Team Sky rider should never have been on the Giro d’Italia start line owing to his anti‑doping battle.
Froome joined Hinault and Eddy Merckx by becoming the third man in history to win three consecutive grand tour titles. The 32-year-old executed an extraordinary comeback to win the Giro d’Italia and add to his Tour de France and Vuelta a España victories from last year. Hinault claims Froome’s name should not be uttered alongside his own. “Froome does not belong on that list,” the 63-year-old Frenchman said, according to the Belgian newspaper Het Laatste Nieuws.
“He should never have been allowed to start in the Giro. Why do we have to wait so long for a verdict? With what right does Froome get so much time to find an explanation? Is it because Sky has so much money?”
Froome, who denies any wrongdoing, is looking increasingly likely to bid for his fifth Tour de France title in July. David Lappartient, the president of the UCI, said the chances of Froome’s case being resolved before the Tour had reduced from about 50% a week ago to possibly less than 50%.
According to the French newspaper L’Équipe, Lappartient said: “The probability of having the [anti-doping] decision before the start of the Tour de France is 50% or less.
“It’s a very complex case, with a lot of lawyers, a lot of documents, a lot of money. We will make our decision as soon as possible but we have no time. Everything is more complicated than usual in this case.”
Froome and his legal team have been battling to rescue his reputation for several months since the Guardian and the French newspaper Le Monde revealed he had returned an adverse test during the Vuelta a España in September.
A urine test indicated he had double the permitted level of the asthma drug salbutamol in his system. It is understood Froome’s defence will centre on challenging the efficacy of the test.
“This is all very sad,” Hinault said. “Froome is not part of the legend of the sport, because what image does he give cycling? He may also start the Tour later. It’s a real scandal. This has to stop.”
A Team Sky Spokesperson said: ‘It is disappointing that Bernard is so outspoken given he has his facts wrong. 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. This process would normally be confidential to protect the athlete and establish the facts. Unfortunately, it was leaked.
“However, both Chris and the team are following the process that has been put in place by the UCI.”