Cyclist Chris Froome "is fighting for his reputation" after returning a failed drug test during his victory in the Vuelta a España in September, a joint investigation by the London Guardian and Le Monde revealed, according to Ingle & Kelner of the GUARDIAN. Froome, who won his fourth Tour de France in July, "was found to have exceeded the permitted levels" of asthma drug salbutamol in a test taken on Sept. 7. Under WADA rules, riders are allowed a level of 1,000 nanograms per milliliter. Froome was found to have twice that in a urine sample. Lawyers and scientists are reportedly working on behalf of Froome and Team Sky to "challenge the result, which is why it has not been made public until now." However, if the Briton is "unable to offer a sufficient explanation for the abnormal finding or challenge the result itself," he will forfeit his Vuelta title under Int'l Cycling Union (UCI) rules. If the test is upheld, Froome could face a significant ban, which may rule him out of next year's Giro d'Italia. In '07, Italian cylcist Alessandro Petacchi "was given a 12-month ban for excessive salbutamol and stripped of his five stage victories in the Giro d'Italia." Froome: "It is well known that I have asthma and I know exactly what the rules are. I use an inhaler to manage my symptoms (always within the permissible limits) and I know for sure that I will be tested every day I wear the race leader’s jersey. My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my salbutamol dosage. ... I take my leadership position in my sport very seriously. The UCI is absolutely right to examine test results and, together with the team, I will provide whatever information it requires."
Team Sky said in a statement that Froome "received the notification of the adverse analytical finding" from the UCI on Sept. 20. Team Principal Dave Brailsford said, "There are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of salbutamol. We’re committed to establishing the facts and understanding exactly what happened on this occasion." The UCI said in a statement that Froome is "not facing a mandatory provisional suspension" (GUARDIAN, 12/13).
Thank you for all the messages of support this morning. I am confident that we will get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately I can't share any more information than I already have until the enquiry is complete.— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 13, 2017
BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT: CYCLING NEWS' Daniel Benson reported no matter how Team Sky attempts to address this particular situation, there is "no getting away from the bare facts." With "no fixed timeline for the case," Team Sky "once again" finds itself center stage. This "has the potential to be a complete disaster for Team Sky’s reputation" and is a scandal that "once again threatens the existence of the squad." Brailsford’s insistence that "of course, we will do whatever we can to help address these questions" is "not entirely reassuring given that he and the team were unable to provide any crucial facts and or evidence" in the Bradley Wiggins case (CYCLING NEWS, 12/13).
'A BIG BLOW': VELO NEWS' Andrew Hood reported Vincenzo Nibali could not "hold back his frustration" after learning of Froome’s possible doping infraction during the Vuelta, in which Nibali finished second. He said that he "found it difficult to understand" why Froome was taking so much salbutamol. Nibali: "On that day in Spain, it was raining and it seems difficult to believe you are suffering from asthma. I have the same problem, but when it rains, the pollen does not even bother you, and you do not need to resort to the Ventolin [salbutamol] spray." He added, "For sure, it's a big blow for cycling and for myself. If the [positive] is confirmed, no one will be able to give me the emotion of winning the Vuelta again, and stepping on the highest spot of the podium in Madrid" (VELO NEWS, 12/13).