Regulations believed to permit organisers to exclude reigning champion from race while salbutamol case is ongoing

Tour de France champion Chris Froome may be barred by organisers from defending his title this year should his ongoing salbutamol case not be resolved ahead of the race starting 1 July, according to a report from Press Association Sports.

The Team Sky star, who is targeting the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France double this year, a feat last achieved 20 years ago by the late Marco Pantani, returned an adverse analytical finding for twice the permitted level of the anti-asthma drug during last year’s Vuelta, which he won.

UCI president David Lappartient is among those who have called on Froome, who has vowed to clear his name, to voluntarily suspend himself from racing until the case is concluded.

However, he is continuing to compete, as permitted under the rules of the World Anti-Doping Agency, and finished 35th overall at Tirreno-Adriatico last week.

There is no prospect of the matter being settled one way or the other before the Giro d’Italia begins in Jerusalem on 4 May, much to the dismay of organisers RCS Sport who want to avoid a repeat of the situation that arose in 2011 when Alberto Contador won the race despite his ongoing clenbuterol case and was later stripped of the title.

Press Association Sport says that while RCS Sport have no room for manoeuvre on the issue, two “senior cycling sources” have told it that ASO has more flexibility on the issue due to specific regulations of the Tour de France aimed at protecting the image of the race.

As a result, they believe that Froome, who is aiming to win the Tour de France for a record-equalling fifth time, could be excluded from the race in the event that the case is ongoing, and ASO is also said to believe that the wording of its rules would enable it to withstand any potential legal challenge from Team Sky.

Froome’s next race, and his final one before the Giro d’Italia, is the Tour of the Alps – formerly the Giro del Trentino – which begins on 16 April.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.