Former road world champion Lizzie Deignan says that Team Sky’s Chris Froome has not been given “fair process” following his adverse analytical finding for twice the permitted amount of the anti-asthma drug salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta, which he won.
The ongoing case has cast a shadow over the build-up to the Tour de France which starts in less than four weeks and where defending champion Froome, who last month won the Giro d’Italia, hopes to achieve a record-equalling fifth victory.
Deignan says that Froome’s reputation has become “tarnished” due to the adverse analytical finding being made public before the case has been decided, with the news broken last December following a joint investigation by the Guardian and Le Monde.
It’s a similar situation to the one Deignan – then known by her maiden name of Armitstead – found herself in during 2016 when the Daily Mail revealed that she risked missing the Rio Olympic Games through suspension following three missed anti-doping controls.
It was ruled that one of those be struck from the record because the official concerned had not made sufficient efforts to find her at the hotel her team was staying at, and she was able to compete at Rio, finishing fifth in the road race.
Speaking to journalist Orla Chennaoui on her When Orla Met podcast, Deigning said that Froome “hasn’t had a fair process because already people have made up their minds unfortunately, and that is not based on the full story.”
Froome insists that he will clear his name, but UCI president David Lappartient has acknowledged that it is unlikely to be settled before the Tour de France finishes and there has been speculation that organisers ASO may seek to exclude him from the race.
However, Deignan – whose husband Philip rides for Team Sky and supported Froome when he finished second overall in the 2014 Vuelta – insists that with the adverse analytical finding out in the open, even if he does succeed in avoiding a sanction the damage to his image is irreparable.
“Unfortunately for Chris his reputation is tarnished and will be for ever,” she said. “Whether he’s innocent or not, it’s kind of irrelevant to some people at this stage. A leak in a legal process should never happen.
“A rider should be protected because inevitably there will be things that happen, grey areas that should be looked at logically, scientifically, and analysed in court,”she continued.
“That’s an inevitable part of having asthma and taking an inhaler and I think unfortunately he hasn’t had a fair process. It’s a very personal story.”
Speaking of her own experience in 2016, the Boels-Dolmans rider said: “I felt really let down by UK Anti-Doping at the time that they didn’t publicly defend the fact I was tested within a day of both missed tests and obviously all my samples have proved negative. I’ve never doped.
“All I needed was for them to say, ‘We made a mistake, we’re an organisation that’s totally funded to do this job and we’ve made a mistake.’
“They haven’t taken ownership or apologised or anything. You’re still working with a system that is not even good. I think there’s still a long way to go for them to be transparent themselves,” she added.
The reigning British road champion is due to give birth to her first child in September and will return to racing in 2019 with her major target being the road race at the UCI World Championships in her home region of Yorkshire.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.