AIGLE, Switzerland — Chris Froome was cleared of doping by the International Cycling Union on Monday, a decision that could allow him to pursue a record-tying fifth Tour de France title later this week.
Froome had been racing under the cloud of a potential ban after a urine sample he provided at the Vuelta a España in September showed a concentration of the asthma drug salbutamol that was twice the permitted level.
A cycling union statement said the World Anti-Doping Agency accepted that Froome’s sample results did not constitute an adverse analytical finding; therefore, the cycling union decided “to close the proceedings against Mr. Froome.”
The Tour begins Saturday, and race organizers were reportedly denying Froome entry. The cycling union said it received WADA’s position on Thursday.
“I have never doubted that this case would be dismissed for the simple reason that I have known throughout I did nothing wrong,” Froome said.
His use of asthma medication has been well documented, and he has often been spotted using inhalers during races.
WADA rules state that an athlete can be cleared for excessive salbutamol use if he proves that it was due to an appropriate therapeutic dosage.
“I have suffered with asthma since childhood,” Froome said. “I know exactly what the rules are regarding my asthma medication and I only ever use my puffer to manage my symptoms within the permissible limits.”
With one more Tour victory, Froome can match the record of five shared by Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain.
“Today’s ruling draws a line,” Froome said. “It means we can all move on and focus on the Tour de France.”
Le Monde on Sunday reported that the Tour organizer, A.S.O., had informed Team Sky, Froome’s team, that it was forbidding Froome from entering the race until the doping case had been decided.
The tour director, Christian Prudhomme, told L’Equipe that Froome would be on the starting line on Saturday in the Vendee region.
“The proceedings we had started to prevent damage to the image is void because sporting authorities are stating no foul has been made,” Prudhomme said. “So be it. He will be on the starting line because the U.C.I. and WADA finally gave an answer.”
A.S.O. also runs the Vuelta through a company called Unipublic. In a statement, Unipublic said it was “satisfied because we finally have a ruling and because we finally know who the winner of the 2017 Vuelta is.”
Monday’s decision means Froome will be able to hold onto the Giro d’Italia trophy he won in May, which gave him three straight Grand Tour titles.
“It is a ruling we accept and will uphold,” Unipublic said. “Having said that, there needs to be an analysis about the length of time this case took, which was much longer than what we had hoped for.”
Prudhomme also complained about the lengthy procedure and called for new rules, hoping that in the future so-called abnormal test results would lead to provisional bans.
The U.C.I. ruling is a controversial one because Alessandro Petacchi in 2007 and Diego Ulissi in 2014 were banned for excessive salbutamol use.
“We have always had total confidence in Chris and his integrity,” said Dave Brailsford, the Team Sky principal. “This is why we decided that it was right for Chris to continue racing, in line with U.C.I. rules, while the process was ongoing.”
He added: “There are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of salbutamol. The same individual can exhibit significant variations in test results taken over multiple days while using exactly the same amount of salbutamol.”
A review of Froome’s 21 test results from the Vuelta revealed that the Stage 18 result was within his expected range of variation, Brailsford said.