British Cycling admit Chris Froome's place at Road World Championships is at risk if salbutamol case is not resolved
British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington has admitted her organisation will have “a decision to make” regarding Chris Froome’s selection to race in a British jersey if his salbutamol case has not been resolved by this autumn.
In a joint interview on Wednesday with British Cycling’s newly-appointed independent chair Frank Slevin, Harrington was pressed for her thoughts on the Froome situation.
“There is an option for an athlete to rule themselves out of being available for selection and Chris hasn’t chosen to do that so under the rules of racing he is available and is innocent until proven guilty,” she said of Team Sky’s four-time Tour de France champion.
Froome has been asked to explain why he had double the permitted amount of asthma drug salbutamol in his urine following a stage of the Vuelta a Espana last autumn. Failure to do so could see Froome stripped of his Vuelta title and handed a doping ban.
Harrington admitted that British Cycling might be faced with a decision if and when it reached the stage where Froome was actually under consideration to wear a Great Britain jersey, much as the England and Wales Cricket Board was with Ben Stokes over the recent Ashes tour.
Stokes was eventually not called up with the CPS yet to decide whether to prosecute a complaint of actual bodily harm.
“When we approach a race where we’re looking at selection decisions, we’ll have a choice to make at that point,” Harrington said. “I think it could take some months [for the Froome case to be resolved]. All the expert thought on the type of clinical work that would need to be done to replicate the conditions for that finding [are that] it could take some months of laboratory work.
“At the moment he’s not banned from the sport and with any selection process there are a number of factors that we take into consideration for any athlete. With any athlete we take into consideration their current status.”
In reality, with Froome racing at the Giro d’Italia and therefore skipping the Commonwealth Games in April, the next time Froome is likely to race in a national jersey is at the Road World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria, in September.
Slevin, meanwhile, said he hoped “on a personal level” that Froome would be able to demonstrate why his salbutamol levels were so high.
Slevin has joined British Cycling on a part-time, unpaid basis and will continue in his main job as the executive chair of House of Fraser.
He said he saw his role as trying to give strong boardroom support for Harrington as she seeks to implement the radical programme of change as British Cycling looks to move on from 18 months of turmoil.
Slevin replaces former motor industry executive Jonathan Browning who himself took up the role on a temporary basis last year after former chair Bob Howden stepped down. Howden’s board was described as “inept” by an independent review commission which was set up to look into allegations of bullying and sexism at British Cycling.
Slevin said he hoped for a “bright line start” which will leave the past behind and look to the future. He expressed surprise that Howden had been re-elected unopposed for another three year term as British Cycling president, albeit that position no longer commands a seat on the board.
“I think it’s safe to say I am surprised,” Slevin told the BBC in a separate interview. “At the end of the day one of the reviews determined that the conduct of the board had been ‘inept… inexcusable’. So I think responsibility needs to be taken for that. I do believe in a bright line and I think we ought to be reviewing that situation.”