(Reuters) - Team Sky should suspend Chris Froome until an investigation into his failed drugs test for an asthma medication is over, according to International Cycling Union (UCI) president David Lappartient.
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.
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 millilitre (ng/ml), double WADA's threshold.
"Team Sky should suspend Froome," Lappartient told daily Le Telegramme.
"However, it is not up to me to interfere. Without going into the question of guilt, it would be simpler for everyone," said the Frenchman, who was elected last September.
"It's up to (team manager Dave) Brailsford to take his responsibilities. Apart from that I think that it is what the other riders wish."
Lappartient, who said he was notified of Froome's test result an hour after being elected in Bergen, Norway, on Sept. 21 last year, believes that "in the eyes of the wider public (the Briton) is already guilty."
Frenchman Romain Bardet, who finished on the Tour podium in the last two editions, said earlier this week that Froome should pull out of racing until the case is over.
The affair, however, is likely to drag on, according to Lappartient.
"It's going to be a long judicial battle. It can last at least a year," he said.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Amlan Chakraborty)