Froome fails Vuelta doping test but claims he was within legal limit
Chris Froome, the British winner of cycling’s Tour de France and Vuelta a Espana this year, failed a doping test at the Vuelta, but has said that the UCI, the sport’s world governing body, was “absolutely right” to request information about his use of asthma medication at the race.
The Team Sky rider is reported to have had double the allowed level of the asthma drug Salbutamol in his system, but claimed that he was within the limit. The use of Salbutamol is permitted, but within certain doses, without a so-called ‘therapeutic use exemption’.
Froome was notified of the ‘adverse analytical finding’ on 20 September, but has not been suspended while the UCI carries out its enquiries.
Froome said: “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. As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose.
“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: “Chris has had asthma since childhood and uses an inhaler to take a common medication, Salbutamol, to prevent and ease symptoms brought on by exercise. Salbutamol is permitted by WADA rules (without the need for a TUE) when inhaled up to a limit of 1,600 micrograms (mcg) over a period of 24 hours and no more than 800mcg over 12 hours…
“The notification of the test finding does not mean that any rule has been broken. The finding triggers requests from the UCI which are aimed at establishing what caused the elevated concentration of Salbutamol and to ensure that no more than the permissible doses of Salbutamol were inhaled.
“There is considerable evidence to show that there are significant and unpredictable variations in the way Salbutamol is metabolised and excreted. As a result, the use of permissible dosages of Salbutamol can sometimes result in elevated urinary concentrations, which require explanation. A wide range of factors can affect the concentrations, including the interaction of Salbutamol with food or other medications, dehydration and the timing of Salbutamol usage before the test.”
Team Sky was also at the centre of an ultimately fruitless inquiry by British Cycling into the contents of a mystery package received by a doctor on behalf of Bradley Wiggins, the now-retired Tour de France winner and multiple Olympic gold medallist, in 2011.
There are suspicions that the package could have contained doping materials, but Dave Brailsford, the chief of Team Sky, told a parliamentary committee that the package contained an over-the-counter decongestant, Fluimucil, a claim that British Cycling was unable to disprove because of a lack of appropriate documentation.