Jerusalem (AFP) – Chris Froome will not be stripped of victory should he triumph at the Giro d’Italia this month, race organisers insisted on Thursday.
The 32-year-old Briton will be on the start line of the 101st edition of the Giro which begins in Jerusalem on Friday, but he has a cloud looming heavily over him.
The Team Sky leader is sweating over the possibility of being hit with a doping ban after testing for elevated levels of the asthma medication salbutamol at September’s Vuelta a Espana, which he won.
His adverse analytical finding didn’t trigger a provisional suspension, though, leaving him free to continue racing while waiting for his case to be resolved.
That threw up the possibility that he could win the Giro but then be stripped of victory if he is subsequently banned.
But Giro director Mauro Vegni insisted he had assurances from Internation Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient that such an eventuality wouldn’t happen.
“We’re banking on Froome riding his best race possible during the Giro and whether he wins or not, we’ll only know that in Rome,” said Vegni.
“But from what we know, he’s prepared to have a great Giro d’Italia, so we expect him to perform to the height of his worth.
“As for what could happen during the Giro, or the possibility that a decision is made on Froome’s case during the Giro, I also spoke with president Lappartient and he said it was not possible before the Giro and unlikely also before the Tour (de France in July).
“And anyway, he clearly said if Froome were to win the Giro then the Giro would remain assigned to him.”
Froome is aiming to become only the third man in history to hold all three Grand Tours at the same time, having won the Tour and Vuelta last year.
Vegni sounded clear on that during the official Giro presentation press conference in Jerusalem, although when elaborating he appeared to change tact slightly.
– ‘No Giro problem’ –
“What I proposed to president Lappartient was that, given this very long disciplinary process, if there’s to be an eventual ban, it should come only at the moment the sanction is communicated,” he said.
“Therefore, if it comes after the Giro then the ban should start after the Giro, and if it comes after the Tour the ban should start after the Tour.”
Vegni said it would be “unfair to fans, unfair to organisers and unfair to (Froome) himself” if he were to compete during the race knowing that he could possibly be stripped of his result.
“So, I repeat: we spoke with him (Lappartient) to say he (Froome) should lose the Vuelta (if convicted of doping) because he was tested during the Vuelta and so that’s taken away.
“And then the ban should start from the moment it is communicated.
“He (Lappartient) showed himself to be willing with regards our reasoning and in a way he let me know that there wouldn’t be a problem for the Giro.”
Vegni made it clear he wasn’t prepared to accept a similar situation to 2011 when Spaniard Alberto Contador won the Giro only to later be hit with a back-dated doping ban for having taken clenbuterol.
He also lost his 2010 Tour de France victory.
“We’re confident that the winner in Rome will be the final result for the Giro d’Italia,” added Vegni.
Cycling’s results have been badly hit over the years by doping scandals.
As well as Contador being stripped of his Tour win, American Floyd Landis lost his 2006 success but, most famously, Lance Armstrong was erased from the record books despite winning the Tour seven years in a row from 1999-2005.
And while Luxemburger Andy Schleck was awarded Contador’s 2010 Tour success, Italian Michele Scarponi benefitted from his Giro woes and Spaniard Oscar Pereiro was declared 2006 Tour winner, the record books for the seven years when Armstrong reigned remain blank.