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A Cloud Hangs Over Froome’s Vuelta win

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Investigation reveals higher than permissible levels of asthma drug

NurPhoto via Getty Images

A quick caveat to this story: facts are still coming out, and I am not in a position to comment on the accuracy of the reporting to date. Nor do I have the time to write a full piece. However, this is a big story about a hugely prominent rider and I know that people on the cafe will want to discuss it. Do, please, be careful that we keep the conversation within the bounds of what is known and that we remain civil, as we always do here. Thanks!

As much of Europe woke to a dark and cold winter’s morning, thoughts were taken back to Spain in August, and Chris Froome’s victory. The Guardian and Le Monde today released the results of their investigation into an alleged adverse finding in a urine test taken from Froome during the Vuelta.

The drug found was salbutamol, an anti-asthma medicine that is also believed to have performance enhancing effects. Froome is a known asthmatic. Levels were more than twice the 1,000 nanograms per millilitre limit. He and Team Sky believe there has been some error and are challenging the results with WADA whilst offering full co-operation. Froome has stated that his asthma had worsened but he believes his inhaler use to be within permissible levels.

Cycling is struggling to move past the “bad old days” of EPO, blood tranfusions and all the other tricks that blighted previous eras. Nothing on the scale of Lance Armstrong has been alleged in this case but cynicism has never been far from the Chris Froome story. Partly this is inevitable for any dominant grand tour rider, but his unusually sudden rise from relative obscurity to the top of the cycling world has given fuel to the scepticism.

It is too soon to say whether the finding will be upheld. If it is, a ban is likely. Further facts will no doubt come out, and the UCI and WADA will have to make a difficult decision. One thing that is certain is that cycling has taken another public relations bodyblow.