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Volume 6 No. 232

Leagues and Governing Bodies

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).

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).

Formula 1 drivers "unanimously signed up to their union because of concerns over the future of the sport," according to Andrew Benson of the BBC. Grand Prix Drivers' Association Chair Alexander Wurz said that the organization had 100% membership "for maybe the first time in history." Wurz added that all drivers had now joined the GPDA because "F1 is entering a period of evolution, change and perhaps even a degree of turmoil." World champions Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen were among those who had not officially joined the GPDA in recent years. F1 is entering a period of "intense political negotiations" as the teams come to the end of the contracts that "bind them to the sport, which for the large part expire" in '20 (BBC, 12/13). MOTORSPORT's Lawrence Barretto reported Wurz said, "The drivers believe unity is fundamental for the sport's success." Since taking over F1, Liberty Media has taken its time in "assessing what areas of the championship need tweaking." Wurz called for the focus to remain on the cars and the track performance. He said, "All adjustments to the sport should only be done and conducted in the best interest of the sport and not of any one individual, and this is what unites the drivers" (MOTORSPORT, 12/13).

CAUSING CONTROVERSY: AUTOSPORT's Jonathan Noble reported FIA President Jean Todt believes it would be "unfair" to F1's current manufacturers if future rules "overlook what they want and pander too much to potential new entrants." Proposals for "tweaks" to the engine rules for '21 have "caused some controversy," with Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari all speaking out against ideas "they fear will lead to a dramatic increase in costs." Rulemakers, however, know that if they do not alter the current engine regulations, there is "little hope of independents such as Ilmore and Cosworth being able to join F1." Todt is "clear that it would be a mistake to ignore the investment that current manufacturers have made in the turbo hybrid era" in favor of companies that may not be able to afford to enter F1 anyway. Todt was a "key supporter" of the move to the turbo hybrid engines, but acknowledges that the power units "have not delivered in all areas" (AUTOSPORT, 12/12).

The National Rugby League admitted it hired a forensic accountancy firm linked to Australian Rugby League Commission member Tony McGrath to investigate alleged salary cap breaches at Manly and Parramatta, "raising serious questions about a conflict of interest," according to Andrew Webster of the SYDNEY MORNING HERALD. McGrath, who did not return calls, has been a commissioner since '14. In a "stunning" admission, the NRL confirmed McGrath's firm was contracted during last year's probe into the Parramatta Eels. While there is "no suggestion of wrongdoing" on McGrath's behalf, the decision from the NRL's integrity unit to contract a company linked to a current commissioner "will shock many stakeholders in the game." The revelation comes as Manly "starts to dig in over the NRL's preliminary findings" into its "alleged cheating over a five-year period." Club officials had no comment on Wednesday, but it is understood they are "gearing up for a legal stoush," claiming there has been "nothing more than procedural breaches of third-party agreements instead of systematic rorting" (SMH, 12/13).

U.S. TEST: In Sydney, Brent Read reported NRL clubs are raising "concerns over plans" to play a test match between New Zealand and England in the U.S. "in the middle of next season." The game is the "brainchild" of Jason Moore, who has been "largely responsible" for the bid to play the 2025 World Cup in the U.S. Talks "have escalated over the past week" after the plan to play the test match -- to coincide with the stand-alone State of Origin weekend -- was "briefly discussed" at last week's meeting of club CEOs. The proposal would see the game played at the home of the NFL Denver Broncos. Several club officials "have not surprisingly demurred at the prospect of sending players halfway around the world in the middle of the season" (THE AUSTRALIAN, 12/14).

Representatives of eight European domestic leagues, whose competitions are played across 17 countries, and the Union of European Leagues of Basketball met EuroLeague Basketball execs on Wednesday and discussed a new EuroLeague Basketball proposal that will be shared with FIBA this month. The objectives behind the global calendar part of the proposal -- to allow professional clubs and national federations to promote basketball in a coordinated manner, ensuring the availability of all players for national teams -- were agreed to by representatives of domestic leagues (EuroLeague).

The Int'l Tennis Federation created an ITF Women in Sport Committee to promote equal opportunities on and off the court. The goal of the committee will be to advise and make recommendations to the ITF board on ways of promoting equal opportunities for girls and women to participate in tennis and the leadership of the sport. The Women in Sport Committee will be chaired by USTA President Katrina Adams (ITF).