Four time Tour de France champion Chris Froome is still aiming for cycling’s flagship event, despite a Cycling International (UCI) investigation into his failed drug test.
Froome tested positive to a banned asthma drug while riding for Team Sky in last September’s Vuelta a Espana in Spain. The results were only made public in December with Froome denying any wrong-doing.
UCI President, David Lappartient, told Team Sky it should “rest” the 32-year-old while the case was on-going. He also raised concerns about the ramifications of a retrospective disqualification. Froome returned a urine sample showing twice the allowed levels of salbutamol following Stage 18 of the Spanish Grand Tour event. He went on to win the overall individual classification.
Team Sky has been the most accomplished Pro Cycling outfit in the years since the US Postal Service Team was caught up in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal.
A statement from Team Sky reads that Froome had been suffering acute asthmatic symptoms through the third week of the Vuelta, and that is why the team doctor increased his dosage of Salbutamol. Sky argues the dosage was within permissible limits set by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Both it and Froome are co-operating with the UCI investigation.
“I take my leadership role in my sport very seriously,” Froome said. “The UCI is absolutely right to examine test results and, together with my team, I will provide whatever information it requires.”
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.
Six months on, the UCI is yet to sanction Team Sky or Froome, even though they’re several races into the 2018 World Tour calendar. The delay has generated controversy in the lead-up to the Giro d’Italia, in which Froome intends to compete. Last year’s winner, Tom Dumoulin, says having Froome compete would be “great”, but it would be horrible for the sport if the investigation was unresolved.
“I don’t think a lot of riders have a different opinion, I think they agree that it’s not good for cycling that this case is lingering on and there’s not a solution,” Dumoulin said at a news conference for the Abu Dhabi Tour.
Retired Italian cyclist, Alessandro Petacchi, thinks other factors may have contributed to Froome’s positive reading.
“That’s a high value, but is there a physiological way of getting there? Was he dehydrated, et cetera? I wonder, that’s what happened to me.” Petacchi said in a magazine interview.
Petacchi was suspended after returning a high reading for Salbutomol following a stage win in the 2007 Giro d’Italia.
“When I went to UCI after they contacted me, they showed me the history of all of my controls,” he said. “All the controls were different, not one the same. It depends how soon you used it before the control, how concentrated your urine was.”
Team Sky has now confirmed Froome will compete in the Tour of the Alps between April 16 and 20. The event is the final warm-up for the Giro d’ Italia.
No Australians have announced yet if they’re riding in the Austrian event, but several are already slated for the Italian Grand Tour.