Chris Froome has been officially cleared of any wrongdoing following his adverse drug test in the 2017 Vuelta a Espana, meaning he is now free to compete in the 2018 Tour de France.
The Tour de France recently made a stunning move to try and stop Froome from competing in the race - which starts this week on 7 July - as they didn't want the Brit racing while the anti-doping case was hanging over him, but the Team Sky talisman will now line up to defend his Tour title after the UCI confirmed that they have dropped the case.
The World Anti-Doping Agency, in cooperation with the UCI, have accepted that there was no breach of the rules from Froome.
Froome has said: "I have never doubted that this case would be dismissed for the simple reason that I have known throughout I did nothing wrong."
It’s been a hell of a year for the Kenyan-born British cyclist.
"I have never doubted that this case would be dismissed for the simple reason that I have known throughout I did nothing wrong"
In May, Froome became the first Brit in the 109-year history of the Giro d’Italia to win the race, his sixth grand tour title and one which made him the first in 35 years to hold three Grand Tours at the same time.
All of this was done with a bit of an elephant in the room though, as Froome and the world awaited the results of the UCI’s investigation into his adverse analytical finding (AFF) from the Vuelta the year before, after he was found to have twice the permitted levels of salbutamol in his system from a test at the Spanish race.
Froome has a particularly romantic history with the Tour of course. After losing his 2013 title to Vincenzo Nibali in 2014, he reclaimed it in 2015 and won it again in 2016 and 2017. It’s the stage on which he’s become a cycling legend. And after coming so close to being banned from the race this year, he’s now going to be able to compete.
We’re sure you probably have a few questions, so here we are, bending over backwards to try and a) guess what those questions are, and b) answer them. Without further ado...
Why was Chris Froome going to be banned from the Tour de France?
The race organiser of the Tour de France, the Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO), dusted off their rule book to find an article that would have potentially let them stop Chris Froome from competing in the 2018 edition of the race.
That rule is ‘article 29’, which states that the Tour de France “reserves the right to refuse the participation in – or disqualify from – the event, a team or one of its members whose presence is liable to damage the image or reputation of ASO or those of the event”.
ASO tried to block Team Sky’s registration of Chris Froome, the reigning Tour champion, using Article 29, according to Le Monde.
Why would Chris Froome “damage the image or reputation” of the Tour de France?
Well, if you’ve been keeping up with your cycling, or if you read the introduction to this article, you’ll know that Chris Froome won the 2018 Giro d’Italia in May 2018, becoming the first British cyclist in the century-long history of the event to do so.
The only thing is, a lot of people thought he shouldn’t be racing in the event at all given his ongoing legal battle to clear his name after the findings from the test at the Vuelta.
Salbutamol is a specified substance in road cycling, rather than one that is completely illegal, meaning Froome was given the chance to explain the negative test results and continue competitive racing in the meantime.
Froome always denied any wrongdoing, and crucially he has now been cleared of all charges, but at the time of the Giro, there was still a chance he could have faced a ban from competitive cycling, been stripped of his Vuelta title, and thus that he shouldn't have actually been competing in the Giro at all.
In light of all this, and of course, with Lance Armstrong’s famous tomfoolery in mind (and by ‘tomfoolery’, we mean cheating to an extent which has scarred both the Tour de France and cycling as a whole), the race organisers of the Tour de France had said they were determined to protect the Tour’s image from the damaging situation where the potential winner (Froome) was still being investigated for wrongdoing elsewhere.
A lot of other people, including former and current road cyclists, had said that Froome should step aside until the case was resolved too.
Bernard Hinault, the last Frenchman to win the Tour de France (in 1985) even came out and said that riders should strike during this year's race in protest against Froome. Team Sky called his comments "irresponsible and ill-informed".
Chris has continued to ride, of course, and while the whole situation with Froome’s adverse analytical finding (AFF) has been a real drag, he has now been officially cleared.
Would Chris Froome really have been banned from the Tour de France though?
Well, Team Sky had appealed the Tour’s decision and their appeal was to be heard in the court of arbitration of the French Olympic Committee (CNOSF) on Tuesday, which is just four days before the race starts this Saturday, on 7 July.
While ASO had not released a comment on the situation, a Team Sky spokesman had said: “We are confident that Chris will be riding the Tour as we know he has done nothing wrong”, and his wife Michelle, who represents him, stated: ”Chris will ride the Tour.”
The ASO has also tried and failed to ban riders in the past, so there’s a good chance that Froome would have won his appeal.
If Chris wins the Tour this year he would become only the second cyclist ever to win four Grand Tours in a row, after the legendary Eddy Merckx, so there’s a whole lot at stake.
Will Chris Froome win the 2018 Tour de France?
Answers, please, on a postcard to Mpora HQ, 2 Tun Yard, London, SW8 3HT. You'd certainly be a brave person to write him off.
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