Team Sky’s star tested over the limit for asthma drug salbutamol, a specified substance, on the way to winning the 2017 title. If he cannot prove a reason for his high reading, he risks being stripped of the title in a judgment due sometime this summer.
Already, the case has dragged on longer than many imagined it would have. The high reading in his urine came after stage 18, September 7 and was later leaked to the public on December 13.
Meanwhile, because of rules for specified substances that riders declare, Froome is free to race. He won the 2018 Giro d’Italia in May and will line up for the Tour de France in July to try to take a fifth title.
“What I want is to have a resolution,” Vuelta director Javier Guillén told the Marca newspaper.
“What is absolutely necessary is to know who won the 2017 Vuelta for the 2018 Vuelta start. We cannot sit here one year later without knowing what has happened.
“He won the Giro and we do not know what will happen with the rest of the races that he raced. I get the feeling that the passing of time complicates matters. I don’t know what we would do [if Froome decides to race the Vuelta], but I do know that the Vuelta must know who won in 2017 before the 2018 race.”
Some insiders speculated that Froome would take a short ban in a ruling sometime before the Tour. Due to rules for specified substance, he would keep the race results since the Vuelta. The 2017 Vuelta would be stripped, which would mean Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) would become the winner.
Froome appears to be going for an all-or-nothing approach. Some reports suggest he will argue kidney failure and some that he will rely on a Dutch research paper that points out flaws in the salbutamol test.
Salbutamol is allowed up to 1000 ng/ml. The actionable threshold is said to be at 1200, while Froome tested at 2000.
“Time is not helping us. The winner of the Vuelta should have known at the end of 2017 and this was no the case. He should have been known before the Giro d’Italia, but no,” Guillén added.
“I hope that it is known before the Tour de France, but I don’t have any information on what will happen. It is a topic that should be resolved for the good of the Tour, for the sake of Sky, but above all for the good of cycling in general. The Tour is the most important event, it reaches many millions of fans and I think we all deserve to have a resolution.”
Cycling Weekly learned from a rider in the top classification of the 2017 Vuelta that winnings were held after the race finished. Organizer Unipublic is likely waiting for a ruling before paying out.