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Volume 6 No. 248
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Chris Froome Claims He Did Not Break Rules; Top Figures In Cycling Weigh In

Cyclist Chris Froome insisted on Wednesday that "he did not take more than the permitted amount of salbutamol" at any stage of this year's Vuelta a España and was "confident he would be able to prove as much in lab conditions," according to Tom Cary of the London TELEGRAPH. Froome’s reputation and Team Sky’s future "are in question," with the threat of a 12-month ban "hovering over the four-time Tour de France champion" after it emerged he returned an adverse analytical finding at the race. After "a year of turmoil," including questions surrounding its "historic use of therapeutic use exemptions and an ultimately inconclusive 12 month UK Anti-Doping investigation," a ban for the team's "star rider could be terminal for Team Sky." To avoid that, Froome must not only prove that he inhaled rather than ingested salbutamol, but submit himself to a pharmacokinetic (PK) study test which "will see him given permitted doses of the drug and his urine samples analysed to measure the quantity excreted" (TELEGRAPH, 12/14). In London, Callum Davis wrote Froome "fears the fallout" from his failed drug test could prevent asthmatic athletes from using their inhalers in emergency situations.

Froome admitted his adverse test is "damaging but he remains hopeful that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing." He said, "This is damaging. It's come as a huge shock to me as well. At the same time, I know within me that fundamentally I have followed the protocol" (TELEGRAPH, 12/14).

'DOUBLE STANDARD': The BBC reported the handling of Froome's adverse drug test by cycling authorities is a "scandal" and a "double standard" is being applied, four-time world time trial champion Tony Martin said. Martin added that Froome should have been suspended for the subsequent World Championships in September, where Froome won bronze medals in the individual and team time trials. Martin: "I am totally angry. There is definitely a double standard being applied." Martin, 32, suggested other cyclists "would have been suspended immediately." However, under the Int'l Cycling Union's (UCI) anti-doping rules, the presence of specified substances like salbutamol in a sample "does not result in a mandatory provisional suspension," and the body has asked Froome for "more detail." When asked if he was made aware of Froome's adverse test while he was UCI president, Brian Cookson denied he had any "role or influence" in the case (BBC, 12/14).

SYMPATHETIC HEARING: In London, Tom Cary reported Froome had a "more sympathetic hearing" from former sprinter Alessandro Petacchi, who served a suspension after exceeding the permitted levels of salbutamol. Petacchi was found with 1,320 nanograms per milliliter in his system after winning a stage in the 2007 Giro D'Italia. He said, "To arrive at 2,000 nanograms, I wonder, how the hell did he do that? And Chris Froome knows they are controlling him every day. You are Froome, they are watching you every day." Petacchi called for the "ambiguity to be removed and for salbutamol to be banned in competition altogether" (TELEGRAPH, 12/14).

EXPERT OPINION: REUTERS' Alan Baldwin reported an anti-doping expert said that Froome's positive test for excessive levels of the asthma drug was "unusual but dehydration or metabolism could have played a part." Tom Bassindale, a forensic scientist who works at Britain’s Sheffield Hallam University, said that further tests under controlled conditions "could clear" Froome if they showed other factors at play. Bassindale: "He gets the chance to prove that either his metabolism is particularly different from everyone else's or that dose has a bigger excretion into his urine compared with the standard" (REUTERS, 12/13).