Chris Froome could be denied Tour de France entry unless salbutamol case resolved

Chris Froome is hoping to secure a fourth consecutive Tour de France title later this year. Artur Widak/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tour de France organisers are planning to deny Chris Froome a place in this year's race if his salbutamol case has not been resolved, it is understood.

The four-time Tour champion returned an adverse finding for the asthma drug salbutamol during his winning ride at last year's Vuelta a Espana.

Froome, 32, denies any wrongdoing and continues to race for Team Sky this season -- as is his right under the World Anti-Doping Agency's rules -- while his team of lawyers and scientists work on an explanation for the adverse sample, which contained twice the allowed concentration of the drug.

The Team Sky rider has made no secret of his plans to race in this year's Giro d'Italia in the hope of adding that title to his existing Tour and Vuelta crowns, and UCI president David Lappartient has confirmed that the Brit's case will not be heard before the race gets underway on May 4.

Giro d'Italia organiser Mauro Vegni has previously told Cyclingnews he is powerless to stop Froome competing in the race, but two senior cycling sources have told PA Sport that ASO, the French company that runs the Tour de France, has no intention of letting a rider compete with a potential anti-doping violation hanging over them.

Team Sky are understood to have received no communication from the UCI or ASO that Froome would be barred from riding in the Tour should his case not have concluded.

The team issued a statement that read: "As Chris has said, he wants to see this process resolved as quickly as possible. Chris and the team are continuing to do all we can to achieve this."

ASO is understood to be confident that it could resist any legal challenge from Team Sky, should the situation reach that stage, as it has clauses in its rules about safeguarding the image of the race.

Exclusion from the Tour would be a bitter blow for Froome, who is chasing a fourth straight victory in cycling's most famous race and a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey in total.

According to its own rules, the UCI could also suspend Froome but Lappartient said at an event in Geneva on Wednesday that it did not want to do that.

"It's possible and it's true that we have this power," the Frenchman said. "But for salbutamol, it's never been done, and we have to respect the rights of Chris Froome. It's not possible to have a specific treatment for him.

"And no other international federation has taken this decision for salbutamol. So if we were the only international federation to do this -- and just for one rider -- I think we would be in the wrong and could badly lose if it went to [the Court of Arbitration for Sport]."

Asked if the UCI would intervene to avoid the scenario of a race organiser having to make this choice, Lappartient said: "I think it's the UCI's job to deal with this matter -- not the race organisers.

"But some of them are worrying about the consequences of this situation for their race and they wonder if they will have to try to refuse a rider.

"We hope that won't happen and this is resolved quickly, so the organisers don't have to do this."

ASO declined to comment on the specifics of Froome's situation but said it hoped for a "fast outcome" to his case.

The Tour de France begins in France's Vendee region on July 7 and finishes in Paris on July 29.