Team Sky have issued a scathing response to Bernard Hinault, calling the five-time Tour de France champion’s comments ‘irresponsible and ill-informed’ after he called on riders to strike over Chris Froome’s participation in this year’s race, due to start on Saturday July 7.
Froome is awaiting the outcome of an adverse analytical finding found at the 2017 Vuelta a España for the prescribed asthma drug salbutamol. Froome is under investigation by the UCI and faces a ban if found guilty of an anti-doping offence, however the four-time Tour de France champion has maintained his innocence.
The 33-year-old won the Giro d’Italia in May to become only the third rider to hold all three Grand Tours simultaneously, but with an investigation still hanging over the Team Sky rider, Hinault, who earned the nickname Le Patron as a rider for his assumed role as the boss of the peloton, said: “The peloton should put its feet to the ground and say, if he is starting the race, we won’t start.”
Hinault, a five-time winner of the Tour de France, added: “Christopher Froome should not be at the start of the Tour. Quite simply because he has tested positive, for me this is not an abnormal test. As always, people do not take the decision when it should be taken. The people at the UCI should have said, you have been caught, so you should not be racing.”
Team Sky responded to Hinault’s comments with a strongly-worded statement, emphasising the fact Froome did not return a positive doping sample and reiterating Froome’s right to race. Had news of Froome’s adverse analytical finding not been leaked in December, the UCI’s current investigation into the circumstances surrounding Froome’s elevated levels of salbutamol, a drug permitted up to a certain threshold, would be held in private.
“It is disappointing that Bernard Hinault has, once again, repeated factually incorrect comments about a case he clearly does not understand,” said a Team Sky spokesperson.
"It is disappointing that Bernard Hinault has, once again, repeated factually incorrect comments about a case he clearly does not understand" - Team Sky
“His comments are irresponsible and ill-informed. 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.
“It is clearly a difficult situation which no one wants resolved more quickly than Chris and the team. Chris and Team Sky are fully-focused on the upcoming Tour de France and won’t let these uneducated comments affect our preparation for the greatest race in the world.”
Hinault’s original comments came in an interview with French newspaper Ouest-France. The 63-year-old held an official position with Tour de France organisers ASO until retiring last year.