Chris Froome admitted on Thursday that his adverse drugs test during his victory at the Vuelta a Espana is “damaging” as the four-time Tour de France winner battles to clear his name.
The British rider had twice the permissible amount of asthma medication Salbutamol in his system during the Grand Tour race he won in September.
Cycling’s governing body UCI has asked the Team Sky rider to provide more information but in line with World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines has not suspended him.
If Froome fails to provide a satisfactory answer the UCI could proceed with an anti-doping rule violation case, which could strip him of his Vuelta victory and result in him missing a large chunk of next season.
“This is damaging. It’s come as a huge shock to me as well,” Froome, 32, told Sky Sports.
“At the same time I know within me that fundamentally I have followed the protocol, I have not overstepped any boundaries and I hope by the end of this process that will be clear to everyone and I’ll be exonerated of any wrongdoing.
“I can’t say what other people are going to think at the end of this. I can only obviously control my input to the situation.”
It’s sad seeing the misconceptions that are out there about athletes & salbutamol use. My hope is that this doesn’t prevent asthmatic athletes from using their inhalers in emergency situations for fear of being judged. It is not something to be ashamed of @asthmauk #asthma
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 14, 2017
Team Sky said in a statement on Wednesday that Froome experienced “acute asthma symptoms” during the final week of the Vuelta and increased his dosage of Salbutamol, within permissible limits, on medical advice.
“Coming into the last week of La Vuelta I began to feel a lot more symptomatic – my asthma was playing up a lot more and that’s when the doctor advised me to increase the number of puffs – obviously staying well in the legal limit of the maximum allowed number of puffs you can take during the race,” said Froome.
“So we did increase it and that’s why we’re faced with this question of ‘I did stay within the limits but obviously the test results show a different reading’ so we’re trying to evaluate what has happened.”
Froome, widely considered the greatest Tour rider of his generation, is scheduled to race the Giro d’Italia in May 2018 ahead of defending his Tour de France title in July 2018.
The test raises fresh questions about British cycling following the scandal surrounding Bradley Wiggins, who received therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to take a corticosteroid in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including before his 2012 Tour de France win.
Wiggins and Sky have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying the drug was prescribed to treat a longstanding pollen allergy.
Chris Froome has vowed to provide whatever information is required by the UCI about his use of medication for asthma during the 2017 Vuelta a Espana after a urine test revealed a concentration of Salbutamol double the WADA threshold.
Team Sky said in a statement that Froome experienced “acute asthma symptoms” during the final week of the Vuelta and increased his dosage of Salbutamol, within permissible limits, on doctor’s advice.
The four-time Tour de France winner conducted a urine test on September 7 which revealed a concentration of Salbutamol of 2,000 nanograms, twice the WADA threshold of 1,000.
The Team Sky statement said the “use of permissible dosages of Salbutamol can sometimes result in elevated urinary concentrations, which require explanation”.
Froome said: “The UCI is absolutely right to examine test results and, together with the team, I will provide whatever information it requires.”
The UCI released a statement detailing information about Froome’s failed drugs test.
“The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) confirms that British rider Christopher Froome was notified of an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) of Salbutamol in excess of 1000ng/ml (*) in a sample collected during the Vuelta a Espana on 7 September 2017,” the statement read.
“The rider was notified of the AAF on 20 September 2017. The anti-doping control was planned and carried out by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF), the independent body mandated by the UCI, in charge of defining and implementing the anti-doping strategy in cycling.
“The analysis of the B sample has confirmed the results of the rider’s A sample and the proceedings are being conducted in line with the UCI Anti-Doping Rules.
“As a matter of principle, and whilst not required by the World Anti-Doping Code, the UCI systematically reports potential anti-doping rule violations via its website when a mandatory provisional suspension applies. Pursuant to Article 7.9.1. of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, the presence of a Specified Substance such as Salbutamol in a sample does not result in the imposition of such mandatory provisional suspension against the rider.
“At this stage of the procedure, the UCI will not comment any further on this matter.”
Reflecting on the year that “changed my whole life”, Yousif Mirza believes he has proved he belongs on the biggest stage and is determined to reach cycling’s top level.
The UAE Team Emirates rider finished second behind Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish at the inaugural Abu Dhabi to Al Ain Classic in a time of 4:31:49.
The 29-year-old finished inches behind sprint king Cavendish and was joined on the podium by Italian teammate Roberto Ferrari, who finished third, with fellow UAE Team Emirates rider Manuele Mori also close behind in a field of 200.
Mirza became the first Emirati to ride for a UCI WorldTour team in 2017, a campaign in which he gained relative success. He won the UAE National Road Championship for a fourth straight year and also claimed victory in the individual time trial.
He finished 13th in the General Classification at February’s Dubai Tour, while outside the UAE he finished second in the road race at the Asian Cycling Championships in Bahrain, was 14th at June’s Hammer Sportzone Limburg in the Netherlands and finished 18th on the opening stage of the Colorado Classic in August.
“I am happy with my 2017 season, sure. And I have more to do,” said Mirza, who feels he acclimatised to the higher echelon of cycling as the season wore on.
“It is my first year as a professional. At the start of the season I was a little bit scared, I didn’t know how to deal with the situation but this year will be my second and it will be different, for sure. I will do my best to reach the top level in cycling.
“I now have one year in the team. It is one year that has changed my whole life. You have to do a lot of things, not just training and racing, it is the professional level, but it has been a good experience for me and I try my best, always.”
🇦🇪 @yousifmirza : to ride in a professional event like this on home soil was a real treat and it was very encouraging to see such a buzz around my sport in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. Thanks all for your support !
Happy national day 🇦🇪❤️ 46.”
— @UAE-TeamEmirates (@TeamUAEAbuDhabi) December 3, 2017
Mirza will start his 2018 season in Argentina before heading home to compete at the Dubai Tour from February 6-10 and the Abu Dhabi Tour from February 21-25.
With the Abu Dhabi Tour having attained WorldTour status from the UCI this year, the Dubai Tour growing in popularity and the inaugural staging of the Abu Dhabi to Al Ain Classic being held on the same day the UAE celebrated its 46th National Day, Mirza is excited to be playing a part in a boom time for cycling in the country.
“It is a good experience, I am proud to represent my team on National Day,” said the man who joined UAE Team Emirates after his former side Al Nasr Pro Cycling Team–Dubai disbanded at the end of 2016.
“We are tired after a long season, but we have to do this. We have an opportunity on the team because the race is in our country. It’s National Day and I wore No46 on my jersey. It is a proud day for me, especially being an Emirati.
“There was no chance I was missing it. Even with a broken leg I would have wanted to ride. It’s the first time they have held the race and I think next year it will be a UCI event. They had anti-doping control and invited pro riders. It was really nice for the first year.
“The Abu Dhabi Tour is now a WorldTour race so it’s more important. And we would be proud to add one more event in our country. You can see cycling improving year by year, even day by day. It is a sport growing very fast.”
The race, the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi, was hosted by Abu Dhabi Cycling Club and under the patronage of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
The race started on the Corniche and ended in the Garden City 175km later, and Mirza congratulated 32-year-old Cavendish, a winner of 30 individual Tour de France stages, on victory.
“Mark was really quick at the finish. We had a really great race with each other. He is always fast and I congratulate him on first place,” said Mirza.
“We were second and third so it was good. Mark and all the riders were happy on these roads. It was good weather, we were lucky as when we were driving back from Al Ain it was raining.
“It was quite windy and on the flat that can affect the outcome of the race. The quality was really high and all the top professionals finished in the main group.”