Team Sky have been accused of deceiving the organisers of the Giro d’Italia by not informing them of Chris Froome‘s failed drugs test when they negotiated their seven-figure appearance fee.
On the eve of the prologue stage here in Jerusalem, race director Mauro Vegni condemned Sir Dave Brailsford for not disclosing the situation and intimated it would be better for the sport if Tom Dumoulin is standing on top of the podium at the finish in Rome.
The Italian then revealed that when news eventually broke of Froome’s adverse analytical finding at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, the Team Sky principal flew out to see him to explain himself.
Chris Froome (R) prepares for the Giro d’Italia as his appearance is shrouded in controversy
Organisers claim they didn’t know of his failed drugs test before agreeing an appearance fee
Asked on Thursday if he felt deceived by Team Sky during those negotiations over appearance money, Vegni replied: ‘Definitely, yes. The relationship with Team Sky took place before the Giro presentation, so I would have expected, within a correct relationship, to be informed somehow. I didn’t really like this.’
Froome failed his test after the 18th stage of the Vuelta on September 7, with the UCI informing him of his adverse analytical finding on September 20.
It was announced at the official launch of the Giro D’Italia on November 29 that Froome had chosen to ride in a bid to become the first cyclist since Bernard Hinault to hold all three Grand Tour titles simultaneously. The Giro organisers only learned of Froome’s situation, however, when the story broke in December.
Race director Mauro Vegni condemned Sir Dave Brailsford for not disclosing the situation
Vegni said he was quick to contact Brailsford. ‘I did express my thinking on the phone to Dave and he came immediately to Italy to meet me,’ he said.
‘Dave was not pleased and he told me that, in fact, he did not receive that piece of information much earlier and that he received it at the end of September. But he also said to me that he was confident that this whole issue will find a solution.’
Vegni also shared his displeasure at the controversy over-shadowing this year’s Giro.
‘Obviously, when we found out (about Froome) it didn’t make us happy,’ he said. ‘We think Team Sky knew. I can guarantee you that (when we signed the agreement with them) we didn’t.’
Clearly uncomfortable with the idea of Froome winning his race when this cloud remains, Vegni did not dismiss the suggestion that it would be preferable to see Dumoulin successfully defend his title.
Team Sky manager Sir Brailsford has been accused of misleading Giro d’Italia organisers
‘Look, as organiser I don’t really support any rider specifically but let me add Tom is a nice character, so to speak,’ he said. ‘He’s young, he’s handsome, he is good for cycling as a whole.’
So would it be better for cycling if the Dutchman won? ‘Let’s say that it would be really a good outcome for the Giro,’ said Vegni with a wry smile.
Is Vegni angry with Froome? ‘He doesn’t seem to be a bad guy at all but he’s an Anglo Saxon, so a different kind of character to a Spaniard that is quite outgoing. But this is not a judgment on him. And no offence to you guys.’
Vegni also said David Lappartient, the UCI president, had given assurances that no decision on Froome would come before the Giro.
Vegni intimated that it would be better for the sport if Tom Dumoulin (pictured) won the event
‘He’s young, he’s handsome, he is good for cycling as a whole,’ Vegni said about Dumoulin
Given that it is supposed to be an independent process, Sky might question whether such conversations should even be occurring.
But Vegni said: ‘Lappartient told us it was highly unlikely to come before the Giro. He told us if he won, the result would stand.’
Sky have released a statement, saying: ‘The UCI process regarding Chris would normally have remained confidential.
The Team wanted to fully respect this but since it became public we have stayed in regular touch with the Giro organisers about it. In all our conversations with the organisers they have been supportive of Chris’s participation in the race.’