[en] We develop a variational theory of geodesics for the canonical variation of the metric of a totally geodesic foliation. As a consequence, we obtain comparison theorems for the horizontal and vertical Laplacians. In the case of Sasakian foliations, we show that sharp horizontal and vertical comparison theorems for the sub-Riemannian distance may be obtained as a limit of horizontal and vertical comparison theorems for the Riemannian distances approximations.