PARIS, France - The head of world cycling, David Lappartient, on Wednesday urged the public to ensure British rider Chris Froome has a "safe" Tour de France.
The world's biggest cycling race starts on Saturday, just days after four-time champion Froome was cleared of doping suspicions by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), headed by Lappartient. In a post on his Twitter account, Lappartient said the UCI's decision should be respected, as should "all riders, including Chris Froome".
"He has the right to operate in a safe environment. I have heard calls, sometimes completely irrational, to violence on the Tour de France," he said. "I cannot accept that and I call on all spectators to protect all the athletes and to respect the judicial decision so that Chris Froome can compete in a safe and serene environment like all other athletes."
Kenyan-born Froome, 33, was under investigation after delivering an abnormal test sample during the Vuelta a Espana last year. He recorded an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for Salbutamol, an asthma medication, meaning he exceeded the allowed dose of a permitted substance.
"I feel the need to say to cycling lovers, to lovers of the Tour de France, that the decision that was taken (to drop the case against Froome) was taken on the basis of reports from experts which led the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) to consider that no violation of anti-doping rules had taken place. And from this point on, that decision must be respected," Lappartient added.
Opposition to Froome had been building in France ahead of the Tour, with five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault labelling him a cheat and organisers barring him from riding before relenting earlier this week and lifting the ban.
Froome is out to emulate five-time winners Hinault, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx and Miguel Indurain when he competes for a fifth win in the three-week Tour. A win would also make Froome the second racer after Merckx to win four straight Grand Tours.
Grateful and relieved to finally put this chapter behind me, it has been an emotional 9 months. Thank you to all of those who have supported and believed in me throughout. pic.twitter.com/OGzsg83Gjj