Team Sky‘s star is free to race despite a lingering anti-doping case and possible suspension. Officials found high concentration of asthma drug salbutamol in his urine at the Vuelta a España last September, with Froome denying breaking anti-doping rules which allow athletes to take a maximum of 800mg of salbutamol per 12 hours, and, with Team Sky’s backing, vowing to clear his name.
“They need to take a decision,” RCS Sport’s cycling director Mauro Vegni told Cycling Weekly, with the hearing and appeals process possibly taking 12 months.
“The process is too long. Every time that something happens we have to wait a year to have a decision. Maybe it’s time to look into changing the rules.”
The UCI is said to be ready to refer the case to its anti-doping tribunal. The selected judge will preside and could expedite the proceedings if one party requests it. Whichever way the decision goes, an appeal is expected either from Team Sky and Froome or the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Vegni proposes a rider should be suspended immediately following an adverse anti-doping finding and a faster process to either suspend them or return them to racing.
“So from the moment the suspension is given, at that point, the suspension starts. All that happens in the middle, those other people have the right to win without the mess,” Vegni explained.
“Other sports don’t have the delays that we have, they are faster. Now, five to six months have passed [since the date of the test on September 7 after the 18th stage of the Vuelta]. They still have to make a decision, then there will be appeals. It’s just not possible to continue this way.”
Watch: Giro d’Italia 2018 route guide
Froome came third in the time trial at the World Championships after the Vuelta, and has already begun his 2018 season at the Ruta del Sol. He will line up next at the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race, one of RCS Sport’s races, on March 7, as he prepares to chase a historic double at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.
Due to the nature of the substance, Froome is not subject to a provisional suspension as would be the case if he had tested positive for another type of substance such as EPO or an anabolic steroid.
However many in cycling, including UCI president David Lappartient have called on Team Sky to voluntarily withdraw Froome from racing while the investigation is ongoing.
“Froome has the right to race,” Lappartient told Italian newspaper La Stampa on Wednesday. “But it creates a difficult situation throughout cycling. It is up to Froome and his team to take the most appropriate behaviour. Other teams in similar cases have suspended their riders. I only hope for a quick verdict.”
“Not just the Giro, but Ruta, Tirreno… All the organisers and races have a right to know who won,” continued Vegni. “He can’t be suspended later at some unknown time, a time that no one knows when it will arrive.
“The rules say that Froome can race, but the UCI doesn’t have the possibility to suspend him. Why should I try to block the team from racing the Giro? Clearly, there are problems with doing that. From the organisers point of view, it’s incomprehensible to have a rider not disqualified, but the result hanging in the balance for a year
“It’s complicated for everyone to watch it. For us to say, ‘Yes, he won.’ And then say one year later, ‘Oh no, he was suspended and lost it.’ Let’s change the rules. Right now, fans don’t understand this.”