By Gregor Brown
Chris Froome's presence in the 2018 Tour de France is not certain, according to French newspaper Le Monde. The Amaury Sport Organisation (ASO) is trying to stop the four-time champion from lining up on July 7 in Vendée due to his ongoing asthma drug case.
Froome's attendance at the Tour start next Saturday in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île will not be known until later this week.
Sky appealed the ASO's decision to the French Olympic Committee court (CNOSF). A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, July 3, at 9AM, read the article. A decision is expected on Wednesday – three days before the Tour start.
"We are confident that Chris will be riding the Tour," Team Sky said in a statement. "We know he has done nothing wrong."
Froome and other cyclists are able to use asthma drug salbutamol, but Team Sky's star tested above the allowed limit on September 20 in the Vuelta a España. He went on to win the race overall.
The case is ongoing and because it involves a specified substance, Froome is allowed to race until any ruling that would stop him. A decision is expected later this summer, already delayed due to the legal complexity and the ramifications of this case.
The organiser is said to be using article 28.1: 'A.S.O. believes it is vital to preserve its image and reputation, as well as those of the event. In compliance with article 2.2.010 bis lines 7 and 8 of the UCI governing cycling sports, A.S.O. expressly reserves the right to refuse the participation in – or disqualify from – the event, a team or one of its members whose presence is liable to damage the image or reputation of A.S.O. or those of the event.'
The organiser informed Team Sky by mail. The team has yet to confirm or deny the story when asked for comment.
Froome continued to race since winning the Vuelta a España and the news that he tested over the allowed limit of salbutamol.
This May, he became the first British rider to win the Giro d'Italia in one of the biggest come-from-behind victories in the modern era. Froome took over the race lead with an 80.3-kilometre solo attack in the 19th stage to Jafferau.
Many applauded, but many complained.
Former French pro and five-time Tour de France winner Bernard Hinault blasted Froome and said that riders should strike over his presence in the Tour. UCI President David Lappartient said that Froome has every right to race, but should sit out while the case is ongoing.
"It's terrible that the authorities have not managed to resolve this problem before the start of the world's biggest race," Tour race director, Christian Prudhomme said this week.
"I will not comment more but of course, rules have to be changed.
"An abnormal control is not clear to the larger public. It has to be black or white, positive or negative."
Of note, Team Sky is one of the few teams yet to announce its eight-man roster for the Tour.
It is rumoured to be Froome, Geraint Thomas, Michal Kwiatkowski, Luke Rowe, Egan Bernal, Wout Poels, Jonathan Castroviejo and Gianni Moscon, with Salvatore Puccio as a reserve.
However, if Team Sky is forced to leave Froome home, recent Critérium du Dauphiné winner Thomas could become the sole leader.
The last time ASO tried such a move was with Tom Boonen's cocaine case in 2009. Boonen, however, appealed the exclusion and raced that year's Tour de France.
Three judges Thomas Clay, Franck Latty and Mathieu Maisonneuve have the files for the Tuesday date. Team Sky and Froome selected the first, ASO the second and the two parties agreed on the third.
Any negative decision by the French Olympic Committee court (CNOSF) could be appealed to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), but the timeframe means that it would likely not have time to rule before the Tour rolls away from Noirmoutier-en-l'Île on Saturday.
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