Chris Froome 'could lose Vuelta title' as UCI probes drugs test result
Chris Froome risks being stripped of his Vuelta a Espana title after a joint investigation by The Guardian and Le Monde revealed the Team Sky rider returned an adverse finding in a drugs test during the race.
Sky's British cyclist Christopher Froome rides before the start of the 13th stage of the 72nd edition of 'La Vuelta' Tour of Spain
Team Sky confirmed in a statement early on Wednesday morning that the UCI had informed them that Froome, who in addition to the 2017 Vuelta has won four Tours de France, was flagged for a result following Stage 18 of the Spanish Grand Tour.
Riders are permitted to record a concentration of up to 1,000 nanograms of Salbutamol per millilitre, but Froome's urine analysis contained 2,000ng/ml. Passing the threshold of 1,000ng/ml requires riders to provide the UCI with further information.
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Team Sky said in their statement that: "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.
During the final week of the Vuelta, Chris experienced acute asthma symptoms. On the advice of the Team Sky doctor, he used an increased dosage of Salbutamol (still within the permissible doses) in the run-up to the 7 September urine test. As race leader, Chris was tested after every stage through this period and he declared his use of the medication as part of the process. 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."
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The Guardian report conveys the seriousness of the situation for Froome. The paper explains that if he is unable to provide an explanation for the adverse result, or challenge the result itself, then he will be stripped of the Vuelta title. In addition, he could face being landed with a ban, "which may rule him out of next year’s Giro D’Italia and the Tour de France, where he was planning to go for a record-equalling fifth yellow jersey. In 2007, the Italian cyclist Alessandro Petacchi was given a 12-month ban for excessive salbutamol and stripped of his five stage victories in the Giro D’Italia."
Chris Froome's statement
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.
Dave Brailsford's statement
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. I have the utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for Salbutamol. Of course, we will do whatever we can to help address these questions.