Chris Froome (Team Sky) has reiterated that he hopes his salbutamol case will be resolved before the Tour de France. UCI president David Lappartient admitted the case could drag on beyond July, and that there is a risk of Tour de France organiser ASO intervening by using their own race rules to stop Froome from starting on July 7.
Lappartient was at stage 17 of the Giro d'Italia but avoided crossing paths with Froome at the podium area at the start in Riva del Garda. Froome and Lappartient have never spoken in person, and the French UCI president has apparently never had any direct contact with Team Sky Manager Dave Brailsford. Any dialogue is currently between the UCI legal team and Froome's legal team as they fight over every detail of his case.
ASO could try to block Froome's presence at the Tour de France under rules in team contracts that strive to preserve the reputation of the race. It is unclear how those rules can be imposed if no verdict in the Froome case has been reached. ASO tried to stop Tom Boonen from riding the 2009 Tour de France after he tested positive for cocaine. However, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled that the Belgian could ride.
Lappartient suggested he would respect Froome's right to ride the Tour de France if no decision has been reached in his case, but Froome does not seem to trust Lappartient.
"I want this resolved as fast as anyone," Froome told Cyclingnews and The Times after the finish of stage 17 of the Giro d’Italia in Iseo.
"I want this resolved more than anyone else does, to be honest. I'd love this to be sorted out before the Tour de France, so that question isn't there anymore. Obviously, there's a process in place, and we're following that process."
Twice the permitted level of salbutamol was discovered in an anti-doping test performed in the final week of last year's Vuelta a España. Froome went on to win the Spanish Grand Tour ahead of Vincenzo Nibali.
Froome has denied any wrongdoing but must prove that he did not exceed the permitted dosage. There are no time limits on the length of the case, and Froome is allowed to compete as salbutamol is a specified substance rather than a banned doping substance.
Hoping to finish on the final Giro podium in Rome
Despite the pressures, including from Lappartient, not to race sub judice, Froome has refused to recuse himself, setting himself the lofty goal of the Giro d'Italia-Tour de France double. He crashed before the opening Jerusalem time trial of the Giro d'Italia and then lost time in the early mountain finishes. Froome bounced back to win the stage to Monte Zoncolan but paid for that effort the following day to Sappada. He was fourth in Tuesday's time trial and moved up to fourth overall, 3:50 down on race leader and fellow Briton Simon Yates.
Froome has hinted that the overall victory may now be beyond his grasp, but he intends to fight for a place on the final podium.
"I'm hoping to do the best I can do," Froome said after warming down in Iseo.
"Whatever placing it turns out being, that's OK. I've wanted to be at my best in this final week, and I'm feeling good. We've got three hard mountain stages ahead of us now, and I'll give everything I've got, and we'll see where I'm at once we get to Rome."
Froome is not confident of his climbing ability, especially against Yates but will be ready to take another stage win if the opportunity comes along.
"It'll be amazing if there was another chance. It's all going to be about the legs for the next three days. If I feel I've got it, then I'm definitely not going to pass up an opportunity," he said.