Tour officials may halt Froome's title defence

LONDON • Chris Froome could be barred from defending his Tour de France title by race organisers as his salbutamol case threatens to drag on into the summer.

With no imminent resolution over his reading for excessive asthma medication, ASO, the French sporting event organiser which owns the Tour, is understood to be studying grounds to exclude the four-time champion.

The Briton continues to compete while he waits for the hearing into his adverse analytical finding, which was taken during last September's victory at Vuelta a Espana when he secured back-to-back Grand Tour triumphs.

He is preparing to race at the Giro d'Italia in May and this week has been conducting reconnaissance rides in northern France and Belgium before the Tour in July.

Organisers of the Giro are frustrated that the 32-year-old is set to compete without a verdict in his case, but accept that he has the right to take part when the race begins on May 4 in Jerusalem.

The International Cycling Union (UCI) could have suspended Froome when his adverse finding was leaked but UCI president David Lappartient said on Wednesday that such a move would not have been appropriate.

"It's possible and it's true that we have this power," the Frenchman told the Press Association.

"But for salbutamol, it has never been done... if we were the only international federation to do this... we would be in the wrong and could badly lose if it went to (the Court of Arbitration for Sport)."

However, it is understood that ASO is increasingly unhappy about the idea of Froome competing in the Tour and may look to its rights to block the Team Sky rider.

There are UCI regulations that allow for a team or rider to be barred "if it/he seriously blemishes the image of cycling or of the race", and sources have suggested that ASO feels that it has discretionary powers about who is registered.

But it remains to be seen how refusing to accept Froome would hold up under legal challenge.

ASO told PA that it hoped for a "fast outcome" to the Briton's case.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 23, 2018, with the headline 'Tour officials may halt Froome's title defence'. Print Edition | Subscribe