Since the latter part of 2017, Froome has had to face public scrutiny over an anti-doping case brought against him by the UCI for testing over the allowed limit for asthma drug salbutamol on stage 18 of the Vuelta a España.
As a ‘presumed’ Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF), the four-time Tour de France winner was allowed under UCI rules to explain his breach of the permissible limits in a confidential process.
After the case was leaked by newspapers Le Monde and the Guardian, Froome has faced a huge amount of questions and focus from the media.
However, after submitting evidence and an explanation in June, the World Anti-Doping Agency told the UCI it would accept the explanation and that Froome’s test did not constitute an AAF.
The UCI cleared Froome on July 2, five days before the start of the 2018 Tour de France. The 33-year-old says he is “glad it’s finally over” and that he “never doubted that this case would be dismissed.”
“I am very pleased that the UCI has exonerated me,” Froome said in a statement.
“While this decision is obviously a big deal for me and the Team, it’s also an important moment for cycling. I understand the history of this great sport – good and bad.
“I have always taken my leadership position very seriously and I always do things the right way. I meant it when I said that I would never dishonour a winner’s jersey and that my results would stand the test of time.
“I have never doubted that this case would be dismissed for the simple reason that I have known throughout I did nothing wrong. I have suffered with asthma since childhood. I know exactly what the rules are regarding my asthma medication and I only ever use my puffer to manage my symptoms within the permissible limits
“Of course, the UCI had to examine these test results from the Vuelta. Unfortunately, the details of the case did not remain confidential, as they should have done. And I appreciate more than anyone else the frustration at how long the case has taken to resolve and the uncertainty this has caused. I am glad it’s finally over.
“I am grateful for all the support I have had from the Team and from many fans across the world. Today’s ruling draws a line. It means we can all move on and focus on the Tour de France.”
In a long statement from Team Sky, which also included an explanation of the process since being notified of the finding in September 2017, team boss Dave Brailsford said that their total confidence in Froome being cleared was why they allowed him to continue racing. Froome and Sky faced numerous calls from high-profile figures to withdraw from racing until the case had been resolved.
Froome raced and won the Giro d’Italia in May to complete a Grand Tour hat-trick, holding the Tour, Vuelta and Giro title at the same time, with the aim to take his fifth Tour win in a few weeks.
Brailsford also provided more background to the case and said the Froome’s “professionalism, integrity and good grace under pressure have been exemplary and a credit to the sport.”
Froome on stage 20 of the Giro d’Italia. Image: Sunada
“We have always had total confidence in Chris and his integrity,” Brailsford said.
“We knew that he had followed the right medical guidance in managing his asthma at the Vuelta and were sure that he would be exonerated in the end, which he has been. This is why we decided that it was right for Chris to continue racing, in line with UCI rules, while the process was ongoing. We are pleased that it has now been resolved.
“Chris’s elevated Salbutamol urine reading from stage 18 of the Vuelta was treated as a ‘presumed’ Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) by the UCI and WADA, which triggered a requirement for us to provide further information. After a comprehensive review of that information, relevant data and scientific research, the UCI and WADA have concluded that there was, in fact, no AAF and that no rule has been broken.
“We said at the outset that there are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of Salbutamol. The same individual can exhibit significant variations in test results taken over multiple days while using exactly the same amount of Salbutamol. This means that the level of Salbutamol in a single urine sample, alone, is not a reliable indicator of the amount inhaled. A review of all Chris’s 21 test results from the Vuelta revealed that the stage 18 result was within his expected range of variation and therefore consistent with him having taken a permitted dose of Salbutamol.
“Chris has proved he is a great champion – not only on the bike but also by how he has conducted himself during this period. It has not been easy, but his professionalism, integrity and good grace under pressure have been exemplary and a credit to the sport.
“The greatest bike race in the world starts in five days. We can’t wait to get racing again and help Chris win it for a record-equalling fifth time.”
The 2018 Tour de France begins on July 7 in Vendée.