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.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.