Chris Froome has been cleared of any wrongdoing by world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, after an adverse drugs test.
The announcement comes just one day after French media reports that Tour de France organisers were seeking to block Froome from riding in this year’s race.
Froome is now free to chase a fifth Tour title, with the race due to start on Saturday.
A drug test on Froome during last year’s Vuelta a Espana found a larger than permitted dose of the asthma drug salbutamol in his system.
In a statement on Monday the UCI said: “The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirms that the anti-doping proceedings involving Mr Christopher Froome have now been closed.”
More to follow…
The 2018 Tour de France begins in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île on Saturday with a 189 km stage to Fontenay-le-Comte before finishing in Paris on July 29.
Here we look at the five main favourites for overall victory.
Who do you think will win this year’s Tour?
CHRIS FROOME (Team Sky)
The reigning champion and four-time winner remains the favourite despite the uncertainty that hangs over his future with his still unresolved salbutamol case. Over the last five years he has always won at least two stage races before arriving at the Tour in July and this time around, his best result of the season is his scintillating victory at the Giro d’Italia. He will still be able to count on the Sky armada but the Kenyan-born rider certainly looks more vulnerable than ever before. Fatigue could prove a factor in the final week.
RICHIE PORTE (BMC Racing)
The Australian was forced to withdraw from last year’s edition of the race after a horrific fall on stage nine which kept him out of action for three months. Now, looking back to his best, the 33-year-old comes into the Tour with a win at the Tour de Suisse, as well as second at the Tour Down Under and third at Tour de Romandie. Porte has never won a Grand Tour but 2018 presents another opportunity to fight for a first podium place in France.
NAIRO QUINTANA (Team Movistar)
The Colombian has never looked capable of challenging Sky’s supremacy despite three podium finishes at the Tour since 2013, but this could be the year when his cards finally fall into place. The 28-year-old comes into the race after securing third at the Tour de Suisse last month, as well as achieving second place at Volta a Catalunya and Colombia Oro y Paz. Races on instinct but needs to show more aggression in France if he is to finally win that elusive Tour title.
VINCENZO NIBALI (Bahrain Merida)
The 2014 Tour de France champion showed his class and racing instinct when clinching a stunning victory at Milan-San Remo in March. Aside from his win in Italy, his season has been mixed, finishing 11th at Tirreno-Adriatico, 12th at Tour of Oman and 24th at Criterium du Dauphine. At 33, he needs to stretch those racing legs again and show he still has the pace, power and race-craft that has seen him widely regarded as one of the best riders of the past decade.
MIKEL LANDA (Team Movistar)
The Spaniard is one of three team leaders – alongside Alejandro Valverde and Quintana – although it is not clear who Movistar will want to lead their fortunes at the Tour. Landa and Quintana have raced together just once this season at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, and it was Landa who prevailed, clinching second behind Primoz Roglic. The 28-year-old former Team Sky rider has the potential to win a Grand Tour one day, but his teammate Quintana looks slightly better on paper to dethrone a rider of Froome’s calibre.
According to a report in the French newspaper Le Monde, race organisers Amaury Sport Organisation have told Team Sky that British star Froome will not be allowed to race.
Froome’s appeal against a drugs test remains unresolved.
Although Froome has always maintained that he did not break any rules, it is reported that ASO have taken a stance to protect the race’s image. It starts next weekend.
A Team Sky spokesperson said: “We are confident that Chris will be riding the Tour as we know he has done nothing wrong.”