Four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome has failed a doping test. The British rider said that he took an increased dosage of asthma medication during another race on the advice of a doctor.
The UCI, cycling's world governing body, announced in a statement posted on its website on Wednesday that it had notified Chris Froome of an "Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF)" in excess of 1000ng/mg (*) in a sample collected during the Vuelta a Espana," which he won in September.
According to Britain's The Guardian newspaper, a urine sample taken from Froome at the Vuelta was found to have twice the permissible limit of the asthma drug salbutamol. However, the 32-year-old Froome, who is asthmatic, has denied any wrongdoing.
"It is well known that I have asthma and I know exactly what the rules are," the Team Sky rider said in a statement. "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."
In its statement, the UCI said that under WADA regulations the "presence in urine of salbutamol in excess of 1000 ng/mL or formoterol in excess of 40 ng/mL is presumed not to be an intended therapeutic use of the substance." It added that the onus was on the athlete to prove "through a controlled pharmacokinetic study" that the abnormal level of salbutamol was the result of the maximum therapeutic dose.
The Kenya-born rider was quickly backed by Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford.
"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," Brailsford said.
Question marks over Team Sky
In an interview with DW, Fritz Sörgel - head of Nürnberg's Institute for Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Research (IBMP) and former member of Germany cycling's Anti-Doping Commission - said he didn't share Brailsford's confidence in Team Sky's processes, adding his belief that the clean limit for salbutamol was already high.
"I don't believe in the cleanliness of Team Sky," he said. "Of course, I can't speak for every rider but what Sky pretends to have is an anti-doping system that is state of the art. I don't think so."
"Rather we're dealing with substances which are problematic and one can approach the [allowed] limit. We've already seen inconsistencies with [former Team Sky rider] Bradley Wiggins. At some point, theses things come out. All this paints Team Sky in a bad light."
Froome has not competed since being notified of the test on September 20 but has announced his intention to try to win at least two of the three big tours, in France, and in Italy, in 2018.