London - French
five-time winner of the Tour de France Bernard Hinault's accusation
that Chris Froome is a "cheat" and call for riders at this year's race
to strike in protest at his presence are "uneducated" say Team Sky.
Froome was found to have twice the permissible amount of asthma drug
Salbutamol in his system during September's Vuelta a Espana, which he
won, before also winning May's Giro d'Italia, becoming the first man to
hold all three Grand Tours at once since Hinault in 1983.
The British four-time Tour de France champion insists he has not
broken any rules, but Hinault says Froome is a cheat and as cycling
authorities dither, rider power should be exerted.
However, in a hard-hitting statement on Thursday Team Sky accused
63-year-old Hinault of distorting the facts and not for the first time.
"It is disappointing that Bernard Hinault has, once again, repeated
factually incorrect comments about a case he clearly does not
understand," the statement read.
"His comments are irresponsible and ill-informed. Chris has not had a
positive test, rather an adverse analytical finding for a prescribed
"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."f
Froome has been involved in a legal and scientific wrangle with the
International Cycling Union's (UCI's) independent anti-doping unit about
how that finding happened. He insists there has been no wrongdoing on
his or the team's part.
Team Sky said they hoped for a quick resolution of the matter but in
the meantime they were getting on with their training for this year's
Tour de France which gets underway on July 7.
"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, known as "The Badger" in his riding pomp, did not mince words when he spoke to AFP on Wednesday.
"If the international authorities don't sanction him it's up to the
other cyclists to shoulder the responsibility," said Hinault.
"If the racers accept a cheat on the race then that's their problem!"
Hinault challenged the peloton to strike on the opening day of the
2018 Tour, a ride from Noirmoutier to Fontenay-le-Comte along the
Atlantic coast on July 7.
"The peloton should just stop and strike, saying 'if he's on it, we're not'.
"The peloton is being too nice. We condemned others, everyone agreed,
but him, are you telling me it's because you call this an adverse
finding (instead of a positive one) this is just not right," he said.
"Contador paid the price for the same thing, he was suspended, but
him (Froome) nothing," said Hinault said in reference to Spaniard
Alberto Contador, who was banned after testing positive for clenbuterol
and being stripped of the 2010 Tour de France title.
"Ventolin might not be much, and maybe it's not what made him win the
Vuelta, but the rules are the rules, and they should be applied to
UCI president David Lappartient told French regional newspaper Le Telegramme in January that Froome's team should withdraw him.
"Without wishing to comment on the rider's guilt, it would be easier for everyone" were Sky to suspend him, Lappartient said.
"It's up to (Sky team manager Dave) Brailsford to take his responsibilities."