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JERUSALEM (AFP) — Chris Froome will not be stripped of victory should he triumph at the Giro d’Italia this month, race organizers insisted on Thursday. But the UCI contends that such assurances may not be true.
Giro director Mauro Vegni insisted he had assurances from 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.
“And anyway, he clearly said if Froome were to win the Giro then the Giro would remain assigned to him.”
After Vegni made his comments the UCI backpedaled from such assurances. The governing body’s media Twitter handle tweeted the following statement: “The UCI wishes to clarify that the UCI President is not in a position to decide when a potential suspension for any anti-doping rule violation should start and whether results obtained before the starting point of a suspension should be annulled or maintained.”
The curious back and forth is just the latest wrinkle in the months-long Froome saga. Froome will be on the start line of the 101st edition of the Giro, which begins Friday in Jerusalem, 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 last 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 raised the possibility that he could win the Giro but then be stripped of victory if he is subsequently banned.
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 organizers 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 [Lappartient] to say [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.”
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 backdated doping ban for clenbuterol.
Contador 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.