Tour de France organisers are planning to deny Chris Froome a place in this year’s race if his salbutamol case has not been resolved, Press Association Sport understands.
The four-time Tour champion returned an adverse finding for the asthma drug salbutamol during his winning ride at last year’s Vuelta a Espana.
Froome denies any wrongdoing and is continuing to race for Team Sky this season – as is his right under the World Anti-Doping Agency’s rules. His team of lawyers and scientists are working on an explanation for the adverse sample, which contained twice the allowed concentration of the drug.
The president of world cycling’s governing body the UCI, David Lappartient, wants such major events to refrain from making such big decisions, and expressed hope that Froome’s case would be resolved “quickly”.
The urgency has been highlighted after two senior cycling sources told Press Association Sport that ASO, the French company that runs the Tour, has no intention of letting a rider compete with a potential anti-doping violation hanging over them.
Team Sky are understood to have received no communication from the UCI or ASO that Froome would be barred from riding in the Tour should his case not have concluded.
The team issued a statement that read: “As Chris has said, he wants to see this process resolved as quickly as possible. Chris and the team are continuing to do all we can to achieve this.”
ASO is understood to be confident that it could resist any legal challenge from Team Sky, should the situation reach that stage, as it has clauses in its rules about safeguarding the image of the race.
Exclusion from the Tour would be a bitter blow for Froome, who is chasing a fourth straight victory in cycling’s most famous race and a record-equalling fifth win in total.
According to its own rules, the UCI could also suspend Froome but Lappartient said at an event in Geneva on Wednesday that it did not want to do that.
“It’s possible and it’s true that we have this power,” the Frenchman said.
“But for salbutamol, it’s never been done, and we have to respect the rights of Chris Froome. It’s not possible to have a specific treatment for him.
“And no other international federation has taken this decision for salbutamol. So if we were the only international federation to do this – and just for one rider – I think we would be in the wrong and could badly lose if it went to (the Court of Arbitration for Sport).”
Asked if the UCI would intervene to avoid the scenario of a race organiser having to make this choice, Lappartient said: “I think it’s the UCI’s job to deal with this matter – not the race organisers.
“But some of them are worrying about the consequences of this situation for their race and they wonder if they will have to try to refuse a rider.
“We hope that won’t happen and this is resolved quickly, so the organisers don’t have to do this.”
ASO declined to comment on the specifics of Froome’s situation but told Press Association Sport it hoped for a “fast outcome” to his case.
Lappartient has confirmed that Froome’s salbutamol case will not be heard before the 32-year-old Briton competes at the Giro d’Italia which starts on May 4.
The Tour de France begins in France’s Vendee region on July 7 and finishes in Paris on July 29.