PARIS (Reuters) - Chris Froome should rule himself out of racing until a probe into his failed drugs test for an asthma medication during last year's Tour of Spain has been concluded, twice Tour de France podium finisher Romain Bardet said on Tuesday.
The four-time Tour de France winner, who denies breaking any rules, could potentially be stripped of his Vuelta a Espana title after a urine test he took during the race in September showed excessive levels of Salbutamol.
"I can't really see how Froome can race as if nothing was going on," Frenchman Bardet, who finished runner-up to the Briton in 2016 and third last year, told sports daily L'Equipe.
"Since (Froome's team) Team Sky are doing nothing, nothing prevents their rider from taking a step back until there is a decision from the authorities."
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Froome has said he would provide whatever information world cycling governing body UCI required.
Salbutamol is permitted as a legal asthma drug by the World Anti-Doping Agency and the UCI said Froome's failed urine test did not necessitate a mandatory provisional suspension even if analysis of his urine sample showed a concentration of 2,000 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), double WADA's threshold.
However, riders have been banned for excessive use of it in the past, notably Italian Alessandro Petacchi, who was given a 12-month suspension and stripped of his five stage victories in the 2007 Giro d'Italia.
"Will the UCI have the means to shed light on this case? Will experts manage to prove that it is possible to have such high natural levels (of Salbutamol)?" Bardet added.
"I have a hard time imagining that a rider with such a high dose of Salbutamol can be cleared. Otherwise, why set a limit?"
Bardet also hopes that the UCI will reach a conclusion before the start of the Tour de France in less than six months.
"Otherwise, it would be catastrophic for the image of the race and the image of cycling. It would be a farce," the AG2R-La Mondiale rider said.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by John O'Brien)