(THE GUARDIAN) - The third-placed finisher in the 2017 Tour de France, Romain Bardet, has said that if Chris Froome's adverse analytical finding for the anti-asthma drug salbutamol dating back to last September is not resolved before this year's race, such a situation would be a "catastrophe" for the event and for cycling.
"There would be derision. It would be a farce," Bardet told the French newspaper L'Equipe. "How can our sport be credible if the No. 1 rider were to race the Tour with the possibility of a retrospective sanction?
"Cycling would make no sense."
In his view, Bardet said, Froome probably faces a ban.
"If you look at legal precedent, other riders in this situation have been sanctioned. I struggle to see how a rider with this dose of salbutamol can be let off. Otherwise, what is the point of a threshold?"
Froome had twice the legal limit in his urine.
Team Sky's four-time Tour winner has pleaded his innocence and stated he will prove the reading was due to natural causes, but Bardet seemed sceptical, stating he felt this "would take a major scientific advance in just a few months".
He added he wanted to believe in Froome's good faith, and that personally, on the road, he found Froome's conduct was "an honour to cycling".
But he stated the "affair" - he was careful to use inverted commas as the Froome case has yet to be resolved - "brought the spectre of doping back to cycling" although he underlined, "this is not a positive test, it's an abnormal result. I'm the first to regret the blurred lines, the ambiguity in the rules. We have no credibility."
The Frenchman, who has always been outspoken over issues around anti-doping, called upon Froome to refrain from racing until his future has been decided.
He added: "The season will start without any decision being taken. We are a laughing stock."