The Italian sports press is well-known for its appreciation of rumors. If you’re looking for the latest unsubstantiated cycling gossip, your first bet is always La Gazzetta dello Sport. They’ve never met a rumor they didn’t publish and the juicier, the better.
The latest and juiciest is whether ASO, the organization behind the Tour de France, will attempt to bar Team Sky’s Chris Froome from defending his Tour title. There’s an ethical clause that stipulates that if the Tour believes the integrity of its event is compromised by a rider or team, ASO can pull the plug on that invitation.
So far, ASO and Le Tour have been very quiet about their plans. While Tour boss Christian Prudhomme says he finds it “grotesque” that Froome’s adverse analytical finding for salbutamol has not been resolved, he didn’t say anything about stopping Froome.
The UCI, the governing body of the sport, also has an ethical clause they can put into action. However, UCI President David Lappartient has said that, in this particular case, it would be a bad idea and a losing one in court. We’re not expecting the UCI to do much of anything in terms of ethics.
The UCI has the power, they’re just afraid to use it. Froome is a huge star and he’s backed by a well-funded legal team.
The Tour is not as gun-shy as the UCI but they also lost their court case the last time they tried to use their ethics and race reputation argument to keep Tom Boonen from riding after his positive test for cocaine. Boonen went to court, won the legal battle and showed up at the 2008 Tour, ready to roll.
Is ASO bold enough to try keeping Froome out of their race?
While we think the Tour is well within their rights to bar Froome, this seems like an unlikely scenario. As we’ve just seen in the Giro d’Italia, there will be much hand-wringing and media pronouncements and various statements of outrage and lots of huffing and puffing. And then Froome will pin on a number and throw his leg over his Pinarello.
Tour boss Prudhomme will grind his teeth and UCI president Lappartient will shrug his shoulders and the race will go on with Froome front and center. That will be wonderful for Froome and terrible for the sport of cycling.
Keep Froome out of the Tour de France? That’s just a far-fetched rumor from La Gazzetta dello Sport.