Chris Froome insists he has “every right to be racing” in this year’s Tour de France, which starts in the Vendée a week on Saturday, despite the ongoing salbutamol case resulting from an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for twice the permitted amount of the anti-asthma drug.
The Team Sky rider is permitted to race while he tries to clear his name because salbutamol is a specified substance rather than one which is completely banned, meaning that no provisional suspension applies, although there have been calls for him to suspend himself voluntarily ever since news of the AAF broke last December.
While Team Sky have yet to name their team, it's clear that they are planning on Froome leading their challenge with Geraint Thomas also racing as a protected rider.
That's despite misgivings over Froome's participation expressed by UCI president David Lappartient, the prospect that race organisers ASO may seek to exclude him to protect the image of the race, and five-time champion Bernard Hinault calling on other riders to strike in protest.
Speaking to Sky Sports News, four-time Tour de France winner Froome accepted why some believe he should not be taking part in this year’s race while the case is ongoing, saying, “I can certainly see it from that point of view and people concerned about the image of the sport.”
However, he continued: “From my point of view I know I’ve done nothing wrong, and from the very beginning that’s always been my starting point.
“So it would be really hard for me not to race knowing that I’ve done nothing wrong here. I’ve got every right to be racing so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
Asked whether, in the event of winning what would be a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey he was confident of keeping the title even if he were sanctioned as a result of the AAF, he said: “Yes. As with the Giro d’Italia last month.”
He explained: “As I said, coming from the starting point I’ve done nothing wrong, and obviously through this process I’m allowed to demonstrate that I’ve done nothing wrong, so I’m fully expecting to be exonerated, to be fully cleared, by the end of this process.”
Team Sky, who have in the past been the target of aggression from some spectators at the Tour de France who believe Froome is not riding cleanly, have stepped up security for this year’s race given the ongoing salbutamol case.
Froome said: “Over the years, there’s always been a small crowd of people who aren’t happy for whatever reason to see us leading the race.
“We’ve always come up against adversity over the years but that’s something you deal with in the moment and on the road and hopefully it doesn’t interfere with the race,” he added.
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.