Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that defending champion Chris Froome will start of the race on Saturday after being cleared of doping charges, but has expressed his “extreme anger” that it has taken so long for the case to be resolved.
This morning, the UCI confirmed that the case against Froome relating to an adverse analytical finding for twice the permitted dose of the anti-asthma drug salbutamol had been closed, with no action to be taken against the Team Sky rider.
World cycling’s governing body said that it had been told by the World Anti-Doping Agency that it was satisfied that no anti-doping rule violation had taken place.
Today’s news came out of the blue. In recent weeks, UCI president David Lappartient had said on more than one occasion that there was little prospect of the case being decided prior to the Tour de France.
It followed yesterday’s reports – subsequently confirmed by Team Sky and now – that race organisers ASO were seeking to exclude the defending champion and four-time winner from this year’s race to protect the image of the event.
Team Sky had been due to challenge that decision at an arbitration hearing in Paris tomorrow, which will not now take place and Prudhomme has confirmed that the 33-year-old will be among the 176 riders who start the race on Saturday in the Vendée.
Speaking to L’Equipe – owned, like ASO, by the media and events group Éditions Philippe Amaury – he said:
“All that for this. We’ve been repeating constantly, since we, like everyone else, became aware of the abnormal control on 13 December, that a quick resolution was needed.”
Prudhomme revealed that the decision was taken three weeks ago to exclude Froome from the race due to Lappartient’s indication that no decision was in sight.
“We decided, three weeks ago, because we needed the response of an independent authority, to write to Chris Froome, Sky and the UCI to tell them that we would do deploy Article 29 of the Tour de France Particular Regulations.
“We didn’t announce that because we didn’t want to pour petrol on the flames,” Prudhomme said.
He continued: "Today we have the answer we’ve been waiting six months for. It comes at the last minute, which is a shame … during all that time, it has obviously caused indecision, doubt and therefore suspicion. That’s where we are.
Confirming that Froome would start the race, he said, “We must change the rules,” and underlined that throughout the process, ASO had not had access to the case file, so was unaware of how it was progressing.
“Our extreme anger is because it has lasted so long and the answer comes at the last minute, just when we ourselves have started a process to get an answer from an independent sports authority.
“The decision came today we’d have liked it to have come sooner, of course,” he added.
Meanwhile, WADA has confirmed today that it will not be challenging the UCI’s decision in the case, which brings the legal process to an end.
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.