Vuelta a España director Javier Guillén says that Chris Froome should be handed the 2011 title if an anti-doping violation is upheld against Juan José Cobo.
The Spaniard unexpectedly won the 2011 edition ahead of Sky riders Froome and Bradley Wiggins, before eventually retiring in 2014 after a stint with Movistar and no more victories to his name.
Eight years later, the UCI on Thursday announced that the 38-year-old would be banned after abnormalities in his Biological Passport between 2009 and 2011 implicated drug use. Cobo has yet to publicly comment on the decision, but has the right to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport if he wishes. Cobo now works as a surfing instructor in San Vicente de la Barquera, Cantabria in the north of Spain, according to El País.
Froome, who could become a seven-time Grand Tour winner should he be handed Cobo’s title, is currently in hospital after suffering several broken bones in a crash during a time trial recon at the Critérium du Dauphiné.
Vuelta director Guillén responded to Spanish newspaper AS in the wake of the Cobo decision, saying he believed in the anti-doping system even if it took this long for the 2011 winner to be sanctioned.
“I have confidence in the anti-doping system, I do not want to prejudge, but the important thing in this such cases is that if there are cyclists who have cheated they must be caught. Let justice be done,” Guillén said.
“I think that justice, the quicker, the more fair, but I believe in the system and that, one way or another, the cheaters are disqualified and the winners have credibility.”
Froome, now 34, finished just 13 seconds behind Cobo at the 2011 Vuelta after Bradley Wiggins lost the lead following the the eventual winner’s attack on the Anglirú on stage 15. Froome went on to win stage 17, but could not overhaul Cobo to take the overall victory.
It is the UCI’s decision whether or not reclassify a victory to another rider, but Guillén says he does not want to see an empty space where a winner should be in the 2011 edition. The UCI did not assign new winners to Lance Armstrong’s stripped Tour de France titles when he was banned in 2012.
“If the first place has been caught cheating, the victory should fall to the one who finished second,” added Guillén.
“Froome finished second and it would be logical, although it is the UCI that must decide if the victory goes to him.
“I understand that with [Armstrong] we wanted to erase a long and dark period, but I think the logical thing here is a reassignment.”