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Sky punches back at Hinault’s rider strike comments over Froome case

The British team came to the defense of Chris Froome, who continues to race despite an ongoing anti-doping case.

Team Sky tersely countered Thursday calls for a rider strike by former Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault if Chris Froome starts the Tour next month.

Team Sky lashed out at the five-time Tour winner, calling his comments in an interview with AFP “irresponsible and ill-informed.”

“It is disappointing that Bernard Hinault has, once again, repeated factually incorrect comments about a case he clearly does not understand,” Team Sky wrote in a prepared statement. “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.”

The prepared statement was released Thursday morning, a day after the blistering comments from the 62-year-old Frenchman appeared in a news article.

Thursday’s statement was a rare official public comment by Team Sky about the Froome case since it exploded last winter.

“If the international authorities don’t sanction him it’s up to the other cyclists to shoulder the responsibility,” Hinault told AFP. “The peloton should just stop and strike, saying, ‘If he’s on it, we’re not.’

“The peloton is being too nice,” Hinault added. “We condemned others, everyone agreed, but him, are you telling me it’s because you call this is an adverse finding (instead of a positive one) this is just not right.”

Team Sky took issue with Hinault’s characterization of Froome’s ongoing and highly controversial salbutamol case. Rules allow Froome to race during what should have been a confidential review of high levels of the asthma treatment drug before a leak last December.

“His comments are irresponsible and ill-informed. Chris has not had a positive test, rather an adverse analytical finding for a prescribed asthma medication,” Sky said in the statement. “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.”

Sky’s parsing of the legal definition of what’s considered a positive test will have implications throughout Froome’s case no matter what happens. Sky is insisting that Froome’s high levels of salbutamol do not constitute a “positive” test, which opens the door for Froome to stay at Team Sky despite the team’s zero-tolerance policies even if he receives a ban.

Froome’s expected presence at the Tour will create a lightning rod of controversy at the season’s biggest race. Froome and Team Sky have resisted calls to step aside for what some say would be for the good of the sport.

Sky’s complete statement:

“It is disappointing that Bernard Hinault has, once again, repeated factually incorrect comments about a case he clearly does not understand.

“His comments are irresponsible and ill-informed. Chris has not had a positive test, rather an adverse analytical finding for a prescribed asthma medication. 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.

“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.”