Five-time Tour de France winner urges riders to go on strike if Chris Froome starts this year’s race

Sports Staff

Five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault has called for riders at this year's race to go on strike if Team Sky's Chris Froome is on the start-line while his Salbutamol case continues.

Team Sky's Froome returned an adverse analytical finding for excessive levels of the asthma drug Salbutamol en route to victory at La Vuelta last year.

As Salbutamol is a specified substance and not a banned one, Froome - who has protested his innocence - has been free to continue racing while the drawn-out case continues, and last month won the Giro d'Italia to hold all three Grand Tour titles at the same time.

He fully intends to race in this year's Tour, where he will seek a third straight win and fifth in total, which would put him alongside Hinault, Eddy Merckx, Jacques Anquetil and Miguel Indurain for the most wins in Tour history. But Hinault is adamant that should not happen.

Froome shakes Bernard Hinault's hand after winning last year's Tour (Getty)

"The peloton should dismount and go on strike saying, 'If he's at the start, we're not starting!" Hinault told French newspaper Ouest France.

"The peloton is too nice. Others have been sanctioned with everyone in agreement, but they will not sanction him because it is an (adverse finding)? No, it is not..."

Under anti-doping rules, Froome has the right to try to explain the results of the test, and has insisted he did not take more than the permitted number of doses from his Ventolin inhaler. Froome's sample, taken after stage 18 of La Vuelta, contained twice the permissible limit of Salbutamol.

Hinault added: "Ventolin, perhaps it's not a big thing, perhaps that's not what won him the Vuelta a Espana. We don't know. But it's banned (at those levels) - and that's it. The rules are the same for everybody."

(Getty)

Froome's case would ordinarily be confidential at this stage, but news of the adverse finding was leaked last year - sparking the ongoing controversy over whether he should still be racing.

UCI president David Lappartient has been among those to say Froome should have been sidelined, either by himself or Team Sky, while saying his own hands are tied.

Froome won the Giro last month with a stunning solo attack on stage 19 part of a late comeback in the final few days, becoming the first Briton to win Italy's Grand Tour.

He is now seeking to become the first man to do the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pantani in 1998. The 2018 Tour begins in Noirmoutier in France's Vendee region on July 7.