Tour de France director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that ASO will no longer attempt to bar Chris Froome (Team Sky) from participating in the race, saying that the procedure is ‘obsolete’ in the wake of the UCI’s announcement that it had dropped anti-doping proceedings against the Briton.
Froome returned a positive test for salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta a España but was free to race pending the resolution of the case. On Sunday, Le Monde reported that ASO had sought to prevent Froome’s participation on the grounds that his presence would damage the reputation of the race.
The National Olympic Committee of French Sport had been due to rule on the case on Wednesday, but Prudhomme has confirmed that ASO has dropped its objection to Froome’s participation in the Tour, which gets underway on Saturday.
“All that for this…” Prudhomme told radio station France Info on Monday. “I’ve said since the month of December that we needed a verdict. I’ve been saying that as the representative of all race organisers, and, of course, as the director of the Tour de France.
“David Lappartient had made it known that there wouldn’t be a response before the Giro, but that there had to be one before the Tour. But by the beginning of June, the tone was a bit different, and for that reason, three weeks ago we went to the court of arbitration of the French Olympic Committee, an independent sporting authority, in search of a response.
“The answer has come today after waiting for months. I’m not going to complain that we have a verdict but it’s a pity that, once again, it has come at the last moment. The verdict for something that took place in September of last year on the Vuelta has come in the week before the Tour de France. Chris Froome can take part.
“For the past few months, we’ve endured a climate that hasn’t been at all pleasant. We needed an answer, and that’s why we went the court of arbitration three weeks ago. Our procedure is now obsolete because the superior authority [the UCI and WADA – ed.] has indicated that there is no offence.”
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Froome returned an anti-doping sample containing 2,000ng/ml of salbutamol – twice the permitted limit – after stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta. He was informed of the positive test during last year’s World Championships in Bergen and news of the case was leaked to the media in December. Froome insisted that he had not taken more than the permitted dosage of salbutamol via an oral inhaler and resisted calls to withhold himself from racing until the case was resolved.
Prudhomme suggested that, in future, positive tests for specified substances such as salbutamol should trigger a provisional suspension until the case is resolved.
“David Lappartient heard about this case two hours after his election as UCI president. He has changed some things in the right direction for next year, notably by banning tramadol,” Prudhomme said. “Now, we really need for there to be a provisional suspension whenever there is an abnormal control.”
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Barry Ryan is Head of Features at Cyclingnews. He has covered professional cycling since 2010, reporting from the Tour de France, Giro d’Italia and events from Argentina to Japan. His writing has appeared in The Independent, Procycling and Cycling Plus. He is the author of The Ascent: Sean Kelly, Stephen Roche and the Rise of Irish Cycling’s Golden Generation, published by Gill Books.