How the hell… does the UCI President keep getting the Chris Froome case wrong?

David Lappartient promised “real and effective leadership” when he was running for cycling’s top job. Euan suggests that, when it comes to the Salbutamol Saga™, he has shown anything but. So how the hell does the UCI president keep getting the Chris Froome case wrong?

During his election campaign, Lappartient must have wondered what would be the first test of his UCI leadership. How soon would it come? Who would be involved?  How he would lead the sport out of the mess that would ensue?

No matter how detailed his plans, he surely wasn’t expecting the bombshell that landed in his lap one hour after being elected. That’s when someone took him to one side and told him: Chris Froome, winner of the Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana, had returned an adverse finding in a doping control sample. That was 21 September 2017.

Then, in the middle of December, Froome’s AAF was leaked to the media. Cycling fans looked for the authoritative word on what was happening – surely that would come from the man who said he wanted to make cycling a credible sport. One Monsieur Lappartient.

Only the new UCI president hasn’t been a model of consistency. Consider his thoughts on when the whole saga will be over:

Before the Giro!

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On the 17th of January, when asked if the process would be complete before the Giro, Lappartient told a Swiss interviewer, “I hope so.”

It could take a year?

A week later, he told a French newspaper that the case “could take over a year” but did add he hoped it would be over “as soon as possible”. 

So … hopefully before the Tour?

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In April, Lappartient was talking to the French newspapers again. But he’d changed his position. He said: “I don’t think we’ll have a decision before the Giro, but I hope before the Tour.” He added: “I’d imagined that it would be done for the start of the Classics.” That is already at odds with his earlier statements, but more was to come…

Um, did I say the Tour?

At the Giro last month, the UCI president was changing his tune again. He told a Spanish paper on 23 May there was only a 50 per cent chance of the case being resolved before this year’s Tour. 

Right then, probably not before the Tour…

Last week, he’d let it slide even further, saying: ”I would like it to be settled before the Tour de France. Well, you have to be realistic, I think that will not be the case.” [One begins to wonder which Tour de France? 2025? – ed]

From early spring 2018 to the beginning of 2019 – that’s quite a range of dates!

Lappartient’s other comments on the case are more interesting. He appears to be preparing us for an uneven battle. One where Froome and Sky pit their money and expert teams against the less well resourced UCI. If that is the case, the UCI could come out of all this looking diminished, the governing body too poor to govern.

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Real and effective leadership? Lappartient could credibly claim that it’s not up to him to say when it will all be over. Froome’s case is being dealt with by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, which is independent of the UCI. Instead he feels the need to say something, just not the same thing ever time he speaks.

So how the hell does the UCI President keep getting the Chris Froome case wrong? I’ll tell you before the Tour… or maybe the Vuelta… ummm, could take me a while. 

For a timeline of the Salbutamol Saga™, go to cyclingnews

Header image: ©GETTY/AFP/Cornelius Poppe

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