Chris Froome (Team Sky) is in pink and Bernard Hinault is livid red.
The crusty Frenchman, and five-time Tour de France winner, minced no words about Froome, the Giro d’Italia and the salbutamol doping issue.
“He should never have been allowed to start in the Giro. Why do we have to wait so long for a verdict? Those two Italians who had the same thing [Alessandro Petacchi and Diego Ulissi -ed.] were suspended much faster,” said Hinault. “With what right does Froome get so much time to find an explanation? Is it because Sky has so much money?”
Sadly for Hinault, and perhaps for Eddy Merckx, Froome now shares with them the record for winning three grand tours in a row. There’s no word yet from the Cannibal, but the Badger was clear about whether he thinks Froome deserves to join their elite club.
“Froome does not belong on that list,” Hinault said, according to Belgian publication Het Laatste Nieuws. “He returned a positive test at the Vuelta and afterwards his B-sample proved positive, so he has used doping and he has to be suspended.”
That qualifies as a “non” from Hinault. Three is very much a crowd.
However, should things play out with the UCI Anti-doping Tribunal the way many people believe it will, Hinault and Merckx should keep the record to themselves. If Froome cannot explain how he tested positive for twice the legal limit for salbutamol, he will most likely lose his Vuelta a Espana title.
That would make Hinault inordinate happy. In fact, the Frenchman would probably host a small party at his home in Brittany. Just Merckx and a bottle of the local, high alcohol cider.
A former ambassador for the Tour de France after he retired from racing, Hinault is horrified by the idea that Froome’s salbutamol case will probably not be resolved before taking the start in Le Tour. “This is all very sad. Froome is not part of the legend of the sport, because what image does he give cycling? He may also start the Tour later. It’s a real scandal. This has to stop.”
There are ethics clauses that both A.S.O, the organizer of the Tour de France, and the UCI could invoke in an effort to keep Froome from riding the Tour. Nobody knows what will happen and nobody can predict the outcome. Froome continues to hold the sport hostage.
All of which makes Bernard Hinault hopping mad. He used to throw intruders off the stage at the Tour presentations. He’d surely love to toss Froome.