In or out this time? Chris Froome celebrates after winning the 2017 Tour de France. File photo: AFP
In or out this time? Chris Froome celebrates after winning the 2017 Tour de France. File photo: AFP

Paris — Tour de France organisers have formally blocked four-time champion Chris Froome from competing in the 2018 race, Le Monde reported on Sunday, but he is expected to fight the move.

The Team Sky star has been under a cloud since he was found to have twice the permissible amount of the asthma drug Salbutamol in his system during September’s Vuelta a Espana, which he won.

Five-time Tour winner Bernard Hinault, who worked for the Tour organisation for many years, called for the peloton to strike if the British rider lines up at the start of the 2018 event next Saturday. Froome responded on Wednesday that he would compete in the race. quoted Team Sky as responding to Sunday’s report that they were "confident that Chris will be riding the Tour as we know he has done nothing wrong".

A final decision on the organisers’ attempt to prevent the Kenyan-born Briton from taking part was expected to be made by the French National Olympic and Sports Committee, which would have to make a ruling on Tuesday, Le Monde said after the last-ditch bid to exclude him.

Technically, while Froome awaits the result of an investigation into his Salbutamol case, he can still ride on the Tour. ASO, the organiser of the Tour, refused to comment on the report, although AFP has had confirmation of information they say backs their view that the defending champion should not be allowed to race.

According to the letter of the rules, Froome is authorised to ride until a final decision from the anti-doping tribunal of the International Cycling Union regarding his case. Le Monde says Froome will not necessarily attend Tuesday’s meeting by the French committee, with the ruling due on Wednesday. He will be defended by British sports lawyer Mike Morgan, a French speaker, before the international tribunal.

Sky, ASO and the French Olympic Committee will each choose an arbiter to decide whether Froome should be allowed to start the Tour.

According to Tour statutes, organisers may ban a rider or a team if their presence is seen as liable to damage the image or reputation of the organisers or the event.

Froome, who denies wrongdoing, is out to emulate five-time winners Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.