Chris Froome’s Salbutamol Case

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

The UCI has announced that Chris Froome has given an Adverse Analytical Finding for Salbutamol following a test during the Vuelta a España. The announcement alone is curious given two newspapers seem got a scoop to have got hold of the story but add in that it’s Froome, that he could be stripped of the Vuelta title, serve a ban and that the substance in question has particular rules make this a complex topic and Twitter today has seen more speculation than a Bitcoin chatroom. Let’s try to explore the matter at hand…

A quick chronology synthesised from today’s UCI press statement, Team Sky’s response and the scoops by Le Monde (€) and The Guardian all of which appeared appeared this morning:

  • Team Sky say Froome “used an increased dosage of Salbutamol (still within the permissible doses) in the run-up to the 7 September urine test”
  • The sample was collected on 7 September. This was Stage 18 to Santo Toribio de Liébana won by Sander Armée; the day after the rainy summit finish where Vincenzo Nibali gained 42 seconds the final climb of Los Machucos
  • Le Monde says Froome was informed of the news on 20 September, the day of the men’s TT in the Bergen worlds which shows some chutzpah in his announcement to ride next year’s Giro but he could hardly say otherwise
  • This morning Le Monde breaks the story closely followed by The Guardian, they’re working in tandem. Why now? It looks to have leaked.

It is a brochodilator and used in common anti-asthma treatments like Ventolin puffers. No Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) is required for small inhaled doses but the UCI requires one for larger doses or if it is to be consumed by other means, like tablet form. It is considered a stimulant in small doses and can have an anabolic, muscle-building effect in larger doses (an online search will bring up stories of bodybuilders injecting it) and can be a masking agent too. It is a “specified substance” under the WADA Code, essentially a category which allows for thresholds and reduced bans rather than the automatic imposition of a four year ban.

The World Anti-Doping Agency sets a threshold for inhaled doses of salbutamol and the test results in urine and this is important to note. Here are WADA’s words

Inhaled salbutamol: maximum 1600 micrograms over 24 hours, not to exceed 800 micrograms every 12 hours;
The presence in urine of salbutamol in excess of 1000 ng/mL… …is presumed not to be an intended therapeutic use of the substance and will be considered as an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) unless the Athlete proves, through a controlled pharmacokinetic study, that the abnormal result was the consequence of the use of the therapeutic dose (by inhalation) up to the maximum dose indicated above.
WADA banned list

Let’s parse this again. Anything in excess of 1000 ng/mL “is presumed not to be an intended therapeutic use of the substance”: a positive test. Then it is up to the rider in a pharmacokinetic (PK) study to prove – prove – that they took less than the maximum permitted dose and that this dosage still generated the high score. A PK test sees Froome administered permitted doses of salbutamol and his urine samples analysed to measure the quantity excreted.

This aspect of proof is interesting. Loyal readers might remember the case of Diego Ulissi who was suspended following the 2014 Giro d’Italia. I’ll confess to a reflex thought of “dodgy Lampre rider” but luckily justice is not based on the first thoughts of bloggers and reading more about the topic some studies suggest an athlete can take a fixed quantity of salbutamol only for their urine tests to contain fluctuating quantities. This chart shows the effects of taking three inhalations of Ventolin – the black arrows – over time.

This research is from the Swiss anti-doping research laboratory and shows spikes in salbutamol levels following administration of a therapeutic dosage but the case it cites shows the athlete could not reproduce the high score detected in competition, even if the lab tests still rate high: I’ve added the horizontal red line at 1000 ng/ml to show the WADA limit. Another test took 32 athletes, administered permitted doses, made them exercise until dehydration and 20 exceeded the limit. The takeaway here is that Salbutamol is not a binary matter like, say, a speed limit for motorists where you are either travelling above the limit for the road or below it. Interestingly studies warn using salbutamol is playing with fire because even permitted doses can fall foul and therefore given this is known the use needs to be minimised. This is also implicit in WADA’s own rules which allow a limit.

None of this exonerates Froome, indeed quite how Froome scored double the permitted level . That studies show it is possible to do X and get Y doesn’t mean this applies to Froome, of the 32 athletes cited above 12 stayed within the margin and it’s not about them or the particular test protocol. Instead to paraphrase the WADA Code Froome’s route out of this is going to be based on submitting himself to PK tests proving, through a controlled PK study, that the abnormal result was the consequence of the use of the therapeutic dose by inhalation. This requires:

  • documentary proof it was inhaled and that the quantity was within the permitted therapeutic limit
  • a lab test to analyse urine samples that demonstrates inhaling a permitted amount generates concentrations in the urine samples above the permitted limits

Several athletes have returned a positive test for salbutamol and avoided a two year ban but have had faced sanctions:

  • Alessandro Petacchi scored 1352ng/mL and was initially cleared by the Italian federation following a test from the 2007 Giro d’Italia. WADA appealed and he was banned for a year because if was over the permitted limit he could not prove how much he had inhaled
  • Diego Ulissi scored 1900ng/mL during the 2014 Giro d’Italia and underwent PK tests but these did not replicate the results. His lawyer argued a crash on Stage 11 had caused his levels to jump up and he got a nine month ban, down from the two year tariff
  • Alexandr Pliuschin got a nine month ban in 2015
  • Norwegian cross country skier Martin Johnsrud Sundby was cleared by skiing governing body but WADA appealed and he got a two month ban. He was taking this for therapeutic reasons but the excess dose still meant a ban and he was stripped of his 2015 World Cup title

Note that these are the “known known” cases that went public because of hearings, appeals and bans. We don’t know the “unknown known” of how many test results see enquiries made and then met with satisfactory explanations. Based on the the public precedents there is a trend where even if athletes are deemed not to have committed a fault they still have a price to pay here; in part to prevent egregious cases of salbutamol abuse. Precedent is helpful but to stress again this in an individual matter depending on the circumstances in the Vuelta and Froome’s metabolism so beware of translating other cases across to this one.

There’s also the precedent of Chris Froome who has used asthma medication in races over the years too, seemingly without tripping a red alert but we don’t know this as cases that trip the tests but can be explained are not made public. But in the event of today’s news it would have probably come out if it had happened before, a statement along the lines of “Froome has actually explained this before”.  Assuming Team Sky have the medical records and the UCI could revisit urine samples for salbutamol concentration.

Why wasn’t Froome suspended following the A-sample?
Because salbutamol is a Specified Substance. The UCI doesn’t normally suspend riders following A sample findings for this category. Something has happened to make it leak out now perhaps simply because the circle of people involved grew large. Le Monde says UCI President David Lappartient was informed upon his election in Bergen, which makes us wonder about the independence of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation if it reports news to the UCI President.

What’s next?
Looking ahead the UCI is going to be handling this case very carefully given Froome’s high profile and wealth: his reputation is on the line and he will have hired the best lawyers. The open nature of the specific rules on salbutamol mean this is not an open and shut case. We’re 84 days into Froome being notified and it could easily take as long to resolve. Dave Brailsford’s response today that “we’re committed to establishing the facts and understanding exactly what happened on this occasion” suggests, because of the present tense, that they’re still trying to work out what happened three months ago and implies this will run for some time.

Amalgamating the precedent cases it does look like athletes have been exonerated of deliberate doping but exceeding the threshold still results in a ban. If this applies to Froome then he’d be stripped of the Vuelta win (Nibali would “win” and joined by Ilnur Zakarin and Wilco Kelderman on the ex post podium) and Quick Step and Nelson Oliveira would get bumped up to bronze medals for the TTT and ITT at Bergen. But if Team Sky can come up with convincing notes from the Vuelta detailing his treatment and if a PK test can prove Froome has an unusual metabolism then he could be cleared in full.

This maybe one case but it will be hard to extract from the still murky saga courtesy of Fancy Bears and the “Jiffy Bag” where it appeared that Team Sky were arbitraging the rules on TUEs in order to administer a powerful anti-asthmatic drug ahead of Bradley Wiggins major target races and already reductive headlines like “Tour de France winner Chris Froome positive” are on TV and radio news bulletins. Certainly here is another substance that can be used and even exploited up to a certain amount and Sky’s medical team may not get too much benefit of the doubt here.

Chris Froome Los Machucos

The leak is unusual and remember this is an ongoing case rather than a verdict. Because salbutamol is involved this is not a binary matter of toxicology, where the discovery of a banned substance in a urine sample equates to an automatic ban. Instead the rules allow therapeutic doses and the subsequent the test allows for a certain amount in the samples. Even in the event of the Adverse Analytical Finding there’s a route to get cleared. Precedents suggest ban lengths can be reduced but these are based on public cases rather than the leaked reviews which is where the UCI’s case is still at. Unlike Contador’s case where the rules always pointed to an inevitable ban despite the lengthy legal saga whether Froome is sanctioned or not remains to be seen, this is a harder case to call. Studies show that Salbutamol to spike in urine samples beyond the WADA threshold but these relate to others not Froome and merely suggest possibility rather than probability. Instead his defence team cannot merely say because it can happen it’s possible it happened to him, instead they must point to the detailed accounts of how much was used and then rely on the outcome of PK testing. If they cannot satisfy the UCI then Froome will be stripped of his Vuelta title and face a suspension and Team Sky could be engulfed.

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J Evans December 13, 2017 at 2:18 pm

Jeroen Swart‏ @JeroenSwart
Sports physician & Exercise scientist. MBChB, MPhil, PhD.
‘All urine samples are tested for B agonists. So taking it in competition
for performance enhancement would virtually guarantee being caught. And
if you know you’re going to be tested (as Froome would) then you would
basically knowingly commit career suicide.
That said, the WADA threshold of 1000ng/ml was set so that therapeutic
doses would not exceed that limit. Based on the pharmacokinetic studies
the limit is set very high.
So based on the above I can’t understand how a 4 time TDF winner
would take a substance with questionable performance benefit when
knowing he would get bust for sure. Yet at the same time the therapeutic
use doesn’t make sense. Leaves many questions. Let’s see how this

CM December 13, 2017 at 2:45 pm

Yes, quite so, and if Inrng is right Froome’s positive came after he had already been the race leader (and presumably tested) for 15 stages. I’d bet he was very sure to have his medical advice recorded -probably documented in triplicate after Sky’s history with Wiggins. Again, if Inrng is right his anti-asthma spike was after a high humidity finish the day before.

Kit December 13, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I think the Wiggins saga would suggest he *wouldn’t* have it recorded – it seems Sky or Freeman got away with a lot by being able to say it was all lost. If rules are being pushed to the limit, or even broken, keeping detailed and accurate records of that is hardly going to help either team or rider unless one wants to take the other down vindictively.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:22 pm

But then again Froome has been a critic of the Wiggins case and said that he personally was unaware of what was happening there (with disapproval). If he seeks to distinguish himself from the 21st best rower at a recent indoor rowing contest he needs to be the better man and do things differently. If I were him I’d want everything recorded and secured… unless I’m dirty of course.

tedba December 14, 2017 at 9:24 am

Agree… I think Froome holds himself to a different standard with this stuff… or at least professes to.

John E Dunn December 16, 2017 at 2:24 pm

Surely Sky would have had time to learn the lesson of the Wiggins farrago – record everything.

My bet is they will have with Froome, who seems to have enough influence to insist on his team being more careful.

That’s not an excuse of course.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 2:21 pm

I don’t see how any punishment that was not similar to that given to Diego Ulissi could be justified, although, as you say, I’m sure that various (non-independent) scientists and lawyers will now be brought out to debate the pharmacokinetic study of Froome’s use.
It’s very hard to see how Sky could be this incompetent that this was a mistake: the results are so high.

And why – once again – was this kept secret until newspapers found out about it? Yes, those are ‘the rules’, but why are the rules set up to keep to keep the public in the dark? How many more cases like this have there been? For all we know, this could be commonplace. Be open.

High time the UCI enforced MPCC-style rules or stronger: allowing corticosteroids and tr4madol (in my experience, your website always blocks use of the actual word for some reason) – to name but two – cannot be justified.
Yes, that wouldn’t make a difference in this instance, but the rule on this could be ‘This is the limit, no excuses’ – that would save us the months of legal rigmarole that we will now endure. (And imagine what a farce it will be if Froome is not punished for this – i.e. the typical farce that is cycling.)
It’s a cultural thing – the culture in cycling is still ‘Take the drugs you can get away with taking’ (and surely no-one believes that there really are so many asthmatic cyclists).
Sky certainly seem to be employing such nefarious methods and I’m sure many other teams are too.
Cycling’s tolerance (shared with all sports, to be fair) of various drug use is always going to come back and bite it.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 2:22 pm

Personally, I’m still unconvinced that a better system than the current one wouldn’t be ‘if you’re too sick to ride – and that includes chronic illnesses – you can’t ride’. Would be very harsh on some, but would reduce the size of the enormous grey area we currently have.
Look at this drug: apparently fine if inhaled, but can be used as a masking agent and in larger doses has an anabolic effect. Leaving it legal at all opens up a potential for abuse/misuse.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 3:22 pm

The “be open” suggestion is understandable but not seeing two sides to the story. “Be open” leads to character assassination. We do still live in a legal context of presumed innocence. “Be open” destroys that notion. To know of every allegation or suspicion has its own effects too.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 3:47 pm

But if we knew about every test result that has been similar to Froome’s but pronounced ‘OK’, we would know how common this sort of result is or is not, and we would know to what extent salbutamol misuse is or is not a problem.
It’s not ‘character assassination’ not withhold a test result – the test result is a fact: why hide facts?
(Correction to my point above that it ‘can be used as a masking agent’.)
Being open would help to cut back on drug use – as would being less tolerant of drug use via rules.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm

“Be open” LEADS to character assassination. I didn’t say it by itself was. You can read the Internet today as well as I. At worst this may be a case of medication leading to a reading over the sporting limit, a breaking of the letter of the law but not a purposeful intention to cheat or deceive. Yet I see forums full of “Froome is a deliberate cheat” and much worse which pushes the liberality of interpretation beyond the limits of a simple fact.

That is why “be open” is wrong. In anyone’s case. And its why courts of many kinds require anonymity and confidentiality.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 4:33 pm

I think being open and having cleaner cycling – hopefully – is more important than what people say.
Look on the internet on any subject and you’ll see a load of character assassination.
Indeed, look at any forum/comments section about Froome before this announcement and it was full of people calling him a cheat.
(When you are charged with a crime it becomes public knowledge – and that’s a far worse prospect of character assassination.)

Hammarling December 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm

“Be open” i don’t like. In an ideal world where people didn’t jump to conclusions or attack each other at the drop of a hat it would work. But just look around today! No official verdict and already people are calling for Froome head on a plate and for Sky to be smashed to pieces. Yet they can still clear their name and be innocent of any wrong doing…

It’s like TUE’s arn’t published. “Be open” so we know who’s taking what and why, but it’s a huge invasion of someones privacy. And at the drop of a hat people attack etc etc

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm

But if you see that a lot of people are doing it maybe it then becomes less of a thing to attack someone about – maybe the attacks are so fierce because we only hear about a small number of instances. Or maybe not, the fact is that because things are kept quiet, we don’t know what is going on.

Cycling’s tolerance of drug use is why there is so much drug use in cycling. It’s time to stop that and be open about who is using what. Then we’ll see how many asthma medications are really needed and how many doses of corticosteroids are ordered.
It seems beyond unlikely that this is merely a ‘Sky problem’.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:30 pm

I’m fascinated as to why you, a simple member of the public, thinks you have a right to know every single thing that goes on in a sport, including what might be very private medical details about an athlete’s life. Its as if you think that if someone becomes an athlete then they become an open book to every member of the public. I must say, I don’t agree at all. The only people who need to know are those who are tasked with knowing for the purposes of sporting integrity. Certainly you or I have no call on such knowledge.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 4:34 pm

This is only publishing what potentially performance-enhancing drugs they have in their system – obtained by *voluntary* drug tests.
No rights are infringed.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:39 pm

This doesn’t answer my question. Why do you personally NEED to know?

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 4:47 pm

Nothing to do with me personally.
It’s about getting the drugs out of the sport, via a different method to just banning them.
I’m not sure that there’s much point in you and I discussing this further – we’re just bouncing back and forth.

DaveRides December 13, 2017 at 6:49 pm

My eyeballs in front of the TV are what pay for the riders’ wages.

Sport loses credibility = fans walk away = no more money to put on races and pay professionals.

It is the riders who need to find ways (e.g. transparency) to restore their credibility.

Andrew December 14, 2017 at 4:00 pm

Perhaps the middle ground would be to publish statistics but with no names attached: along the lines of “In 2016 eight tests returned an adverse analytical finding for salbutamol and all eight were satisfactorily explained” – or indeed “This is the first AAF since Pliuschin”.

That would provide some context without breaching riders’ right to privacy when they were found to have no case to answer.

CA December 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Your posts are interesting in that you show on one hand to be pretty reasonable (see your quote from a doctor, above), but then it appears you don’t have much experience in the sport you follow so closely.

Cyclists and other endurance athletes often experience asthmatic episodes. As well, it’s never simply a case of one day you have asthma, and the next you don’t. This entire topic is very complex, and therefore WADA was wise to keep this confidential until the leaks turned December 13, 2017 into a cycling media’s dream! It’s a shame because Froome was pumping up the upcoming season and made it look like we’d have some major battles.

I’d actually like UCI to face damages for continued leaks, they’re so unprofessional and are one of the major reasons cycling’s development is far behind other sports.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 8:08 pm

If they were open in the first place there would be no leaks. (And leaks are a fact of life in all organisations so you know it’s going to happen – and if you don’t, you only have to look at the past.)
And how much would drug use be reduced if riders knew that the public was going to find out what they were taking?
You’d rather this was all kept quiet and then Froome explains – in secret – what happened?
Yeah, that’s the way to get a clean sport.
You seem to want to avoid the reality of what drugs people are taking: you’d rather watch Froome in his ‘pumping’ condition, regardless of how he gained that?

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 8:10 pm

In answer to your first paragraph, I’m open-minded as to how this could have happened and I’m open-minded on possible solutions to cycling’s drug problems.
Others seem to have blinkered viewpoints, which they adhere to doggedly no matter what.

CA December 13, 2017 at 9:12 pm

Well, I agree, if all teams published what the riders took, then this would become less of an issue pretty quickly. But because it is a sport where the physical limits are being tested at all times, this is far from an easy thing to judge.

I was mostly responding to your black and white viewpoint that if someone shows asthmatic symptoms, they shouldn’t ride that day. It’s a very simplistic point of view. Besides, many, if not most endurance athletes show symptoms of asthma from time to time, so it is idiotic to expect them to not ride when symptoms show.

Personally, I’m not a Froome fan and definitely don’t want him to win TdF no. 5. But, I don’t think an unresolved salbutamol case leaked to the french and english press is being open. This is a leak due to unprofessionalism, not to help the greater good of clean cycling. If we’re going to catch him, let’s catch him using a real drug. Salbutamol didn’t win this Vuelta.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 9:22 pm

‘I was mostly responding to your black and white viewpoint that if someone shows asthmatic symptoms, they shouldn’t ride that day. It’s a very simplistic point of view. Besides, many, if not most endurance athletes show symptoms of asthma from time to time, so it is idiotic to expect them to not ride when symptoms show.’
Where did I say that?
I did say:
‘Personally, I’m still unconvinced that a better system than the current one wouldn’t be ‘if you’re too sick to ride – and that includes chronic illnesses – you can’t ride’. Would be very harsh on some, but would reduce the size of the enormous grey area we currently have.’
But that’s not the same thing: nothing like it. It would make it very difficult for some asthmatics some of the time and that would, as I say, be harsh – but look at the ridiculousness of what we currently have.
Also, I said it might be a better system than the current one, I didn’t say it was the ideal system. I prefer the system where riders’ drug tests are made public, regardless of what the drug is. And I’d also like this limit – e.g. this one on salbutamol – to be black and white, rather than having the legal process that is about to happen.
Personally, I don’t care who wins any race: I’d just like them to be doing it without drugs.
I don’t know that Froome cheated here – none of us know, yes or no – but equally you can’t say that the salbutamol didn’t have an effect: it’s an unknown.

CA December 13, 2017 at 9:46 pm

That’s the point though, the system you’re proposing (which most of us at some point in our history of being fans want) which is simple and doesn’t have complicated legal proceedings, etc. etc. etc. is a fantasy. We all want simple anti-drug policies, but that’s the point, there will never be a clear system. Plus, cycling’s anti-doping system is arguably better than any other sport.

The only problem with our sport is that unresolved cases hit the public so that we get armchair guys like “sbs” below now saying that Froome is as dirty as Lance!! hahaha.. give me a break.

Other sports don’t leak unresolved cases. It may mean that players are dirtier, but it usually means less sponsors leave the sport. And a sport that 100% relies on sponsors should really focus on learning the definition of confidentiality.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 9:54 pm

We don’t agree and we’re not going to – and lord knows I’ve posted enough here.
I think the sponsors will only come back when cycling loses its doping image.
I think that’s far more likely to happen by being transparent and thus shaming teams/riders into taking fewer drugs than it is by trying to brush it under the carpet (after all, cycling has tried that).

CA December 13, 2017 at 10:03 pm

Actually on that point I do agree, I think we should go the other way entirely from what we’re doing and publish everything.

I don’t agree with secret leaks to newspapers (as happened today), it is unprofessional and just plainly stupid.

But, 100% transparency is what I want. That means though that athletes can use things like salbutamol, of course with limits. I do wonder however if this will create a completely simple system? I suspect it won’t.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 10:07 pm

Simple, no. But more open. And that openness would, I think, lessen drug use.

On the subject of openness, I was interested to read this:

‘Froome’s use of an inhaler first entered the public domain when he was filmed puffing on one during the 2014 Critérium du Dauphiné. In an interview with Paul Kimmage for the Sunday Independent the following week, Froome revealed that he suffered from asthma and described his inhaler use. “I take my inhaler every day,” Froome said. “[I take] Ventolin only if I’ve got effort. Fluticasone is a daily one, more a preventative, so I take two sprays.”

In his autobiography, The Climb, ghost-written by David Walsh and published just weeks earlier in May 2014, Froome made no reference whatsoever to a chronic, performance-diminishing asthmatic condition.’

Sounds familiar. The things people leave out of their autobiographies…

CA December 13, 2017 at 10:21 pm

Exactly, and this is something I’ve been pretty vocal about for years. If we could see the list of what Team Sky gives it’s athletes, it’d be very interesting. Obviously, each thing is likely technically legal, but IMHO 95% would fail the substance of the anti-doping rules.

The combined effect of these things is what makes Froome able to climb faster than Lance.

However, once again, and this is a record we’ve heard before, this list would be very similar on Trek, Quickstep, Movistar, Astana, Katusha and a few others (these are the non-MPCC teams).

BenW December 13, 2017 at 2:29 pm

Let’s see how good the medical notes are this time and whether or not they’ve been backed up. We don’t want another laptop going missing this time.

gabriele December 13, 2017 at 2:47 pm

I’m not sure about the rules or if they changed in the while, but I think that even if it’s allowed to inhale the product, you should duly declare how many times and when you did it. Which means that the UCI is supposed to already have the data, isn’t it?

anonymos December 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm

You don’t need a TUE for Salbutamol. So you don’t need to declare it. If you need to declare it, you certainly wouldn’t declare it to the UCI, who have at least in theory nothing to do with the anti-doping enforcement.

If anything, you declare it on the medication used form when they do the anti-doping test. But then only the name, not frequency – that makes no sense anyway, they can’t test that, hence why they check concetration in urine.

Nick December 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm

In any event, it’s now for Froome to show how a legal dose could give rise to an above threshold amount in his body, so lost records won’t help this time.

NG December 14, 2017 at 3:10 am

It’s just not fair when you put athletes in a situation where destroying the evidence doesn’t help !

jc December 13, 2017 at 2:32 pm

You do have to wonder who leaked all this, though of course we all have a tendency to see conspiracy when cock up is almost always the right answer.

The first thought is “what a mess”. Maybe Sky now have very detailed record keeping, which may mean there is a way to sort this out but I suspect this is all heading for lawyers at dawn with no winners all round.

As most folk who have ever ridden a bike know, asthma or similar breathing issues are very common, breathing in all the road dust and dust from the various fields next to the roads for extended periods of time is not good for lung health. Road racers are very prone to this especially given their much enlarged lung capacity. Is it reasonable for them to be able to take some medication to keep these issues to a minimal level? Is the level of dust such a risk to riders health that it is a reasonable precaution for riders to take approved levels of medication (the current approach)?

There is no right or wrong with this only lots of shades of grey and unfortunately there will be no satisfactory outcome here.

gabriele December 13, 2017 at 3:00 pm

In Petacchi’s case the news was leaked to the press by unknown sources as well. He renounced to the B-sample test and was already facing a sport court some six weeks after the Giro stage in which he was tested. He was cleared by the FCI (cycling national federation) but the CONI (national olympic commitee) attorney brought the case to the TAS.
In Ulissi’s case it was his team which gave the news about four weeks after the stage in question, suspending the rider before the results on the B-sample.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of attitude 😛
I suspect that the changing of the guard at the UCI might be related to how things went… but that’s just conspiranoia, at least until some email or the likes is leaked ^__^

DaveRides December 13, 2017 at 5:47 pm

A note on the team putting Ulissi on a provisional suspension, this was so that when the tribunal handed down his suspension it would be backdated to start when his provisional suspension started.

Froome has not yet submitted to a provisional suspension (despite it being the off-season!) and has raced since being notified of his AAF, which means that if he is found guilty his suspension will not be allowed to be backdated.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:18 pm

No provisional suspension is mandated in the case of Salbutamol. That’s why he hasn’t been given one.

Sonja Neteu December 14, 2017 at 1:29 am

In Henao’s case, the Team Sky was not obliged to suspend him either; but it did so on the basis of its internal policies.

BenW December 13, 2017 at 3:14 pm

Nah, it’s been leaked deliberately unless the cock-up/conspiracy axis to which you refer is about Froome’s case rather than the leak.

I wasn’t at all surprised to see it went to L’Equipe and Sean Ingle at the Guardian, tbh. A few short years ago it would have been Walsh, of course.

ebbe December 13, 2017 at 8:38 pm

” Is the level of dust such a risk to riders health that it is a reasonable precaution for riders to take approved levels of medication (the current approach)?”

No inhaler is a “precaution” for dust. Moreover: If the amount of dust inhaled poses a health threat to the athlete’s health, no inhaler in the world will pull the dust out of the lungs. An inhaler can at best suppress the symptoms of dust in lungs, never treat or prevent it. It may even trick the athlete into thinking everything is fine, when it isn’t.

The real solution is to take rest, etc

Hans Vandeweghe December 13, 2017 at 2:34 pm

Salbutamol was once labeled a masking agent, but that has been proven false.
For the rest of this article: fine work.

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Thanks, noted. It might explain why it went on the list some time ago.

Chuffy December 13, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I’m curious how a drug which would pretty much guarantee appearing in a test (see Jeroen Swart’s comments) can be used as a masking agent. Anyone?

Richard S December 13, 2017 at 2:56 pm

I’m just guessing but I’d say even at concentrations below the 1000 limit it must mask something. So in theory somebody with asthma could show up with 850 in their test day in day out and nobody would bat an eyelid but really they’ve been using it to mask something much more sinister which is lurking in there as well.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 3:59 pm

Stop guessing. It’s not a masking agent.

DaveRides December 13, 2017 at 6:27 pm

The idea behind using a masking agent is that it means you won’t get picked up for the ‘hard’ PED you are using at the same time.

Anti-doping bodies cottoned onto this a while back and dealt with the problem by declaring that being caught using a masking agent would be treated as being equal to being caught using a PED.

As has been noted already, salbutamol is not actually a masking agent. There are others though.

Luigi December 13, 2017 at 2:39 pm

Wiggins, asthmatic. martin johnsrud sundby, asthmatic. Froome, asthmatic. To top the world in endurance you need asthma.

Everybody says Sulbutamol does not enhance your performance. Is it true, or it is just a copy-paste from Wada website, but “we all know that…”. Second, does it cover other stuff? I hope in a shoert disqualification (6 months?) and to see him back on a bike next spring.

cd December 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

Did Wiggins use his inhaler during that rowing event too. I wonder if they tested there.

Kris Not Froome December 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm

I’m asthmatic, and a runner. If I’m not running, I dont need a puff of Sulbutamol most days.
However, if I’m running, taking it vs not taking the puff is a huge difference. The lung capacity seems hugely more after a couple of puffs, versus, feeling constricted and shallow breathing without it.
However, in my case, taking more doesnt mean better. Its just the appropriate puffs you need. Beyond that feels useless.
Obviously, stuff like anabolic muscle building effects of super doses, I am unaware of that aspect.

tedba December 14, 2017 at 9:28 am

Feel free to correct me – but isn’t aerobic exercise generally a recommendation when asthma is diagnosed? I always thought although counter intuitive that this was why a seemingly large population of athletes tend to suffer.

Anonymous December 14, 2017 at 1:16 pm

The lung capacity seems hugely more after a couple of puffs,

Well, yes. It’s a muscle relaxant and dilates the airways and hence lets you get more air in. If you’re an asthmatic suffering from poor lung function and/or spasms, that lets you get more air in and will make you feel better. If you’re a top-level aerobic athlete, that lets you get more air in and might make you perform better (perhaps not, but perhaps just a little, which may explain why studies generally don’t show statistically significant performance benefits, but every little “marginal gain” is important at that level – we’ve been told so many times).

The trouble is distinguishing the former, from the latter pretending to be the former.

The other problem is that a long history of hard aerobic exercise can, evidence suggests (AIUI), itself affect (damage?) the lungs enough to cause some level of genuine asthma.

Also: at high doses, there are also clear effects on muscle tissue leaning. Studies that reject performance increases that I have read only looked at strength in absolute terms. However, leaner muscles that have the same strength have clear benefits in sports that are very power-weight sensitive. There are short-term benefits at lower doses. However, no studies that I could find that examined whether these effects can still be seen at lower doses over longer time-scales. (Note: far from my field though).

Personally, given the massive increase in use of asthma medicines over the last decade or two in top-level aerobic sport, given that the athletes abusing substances generally are a decade+ ahead of the scientific evidence (science takes time), given that taking these medicines unnecessarily is /not/ good for health either, given that this sport already was meant to come down to genetic advantages (so… why give someone prone to asthma during exercise but fine otherwise a free-pass, but deny someone with lower blood-cell counts EPO?), given how easily the system is abused, I think salbutamol, etc. should be prohibited.

gabriele December 13, 2017 at 3:33 pm

It’s performance enhancing, but not because it improves your breathing beyond your good-health potential, that is, apart from eliminating the effect of asthma (and the good ol’ placebo effect).

It’s got an anabolic effect, a stimulant effect (even on low dosis) and – perhaps even more important – it changes the metabolism rate, acting notably on fats. Most ways it could be useful in pro cycling haven’t probably been tackled by specific studies, but, for example, the weight loss without losing muscular mass (esp. combined with caffeine) as well as the availability of fats in circulation, with effects on metabolic rate, have been studied in humans.

I think that both the anabolic and the stimulant effect are quoted by authorities as reasons to establish the thresholds in antidoping rules, but I didn’t check the source.

It’s interesting that it’s more effective if taken through tablets, which allow you to reach more easily the needed doses (and avoid tachycardia), but *that* would be forbidden by antidoping rules. Hence, we’re left wondering how many puffs those guys had to take (luckily, it looks that tachycardia wasn’t a problem, at the end of the day…). If one is distrustful by nature, he could even think that they take the tablets and use the inhalator as an explication.

Steve December 13, 2017 at 11:44 pm

It certainly isn’t making my seven year old son any leaner.

Mark H December 14, 2017 at 6:06 am

Haha, in the face of all this serious discussion, that is by far the best, and probably most informative, comment i’ve seen.

Steve December 14, 2017 at 4:19 pm

He needs a steroid too. That’s probably bulking him up

gabriele December 14, 2017 at 6:14 pm

Try the tablets and don’t give up your hopes… have you ever seen Froome just 8 years ago?

BenW December 15, 2017 at 11:33 am
gabriele December 15, 2017 at 8:29 pm

As I said elsewhere, I’m far from sure that Nibali wouldn’t ever find himself in a similar (or worse) situation – but just as speculations about Froome were just that, speculations (however much better founded than those about Nibali), and thus there was no need IMHO to delve much into the subject, now there’s equally no need to imagine anything about Nibali until similar facts will emerge.

DJW December 13, 2017 at 2:46 pm

It would be reasonable to assume that WADA, in establishing the 1000ng/ml threshold, had integrated a substantial safety margin such that reasonable use in unfavourable individual circumstances would still be below the limit. On the same lines the French team’s doctor quoted in L’Equipe this morning suggests, probably simplistically, that the 1000ng/ml level would be reached by taking 16 inhalations (assumedly over a very short period, on average body mass and fluid balance). A curious case as Sky and Froome were already closely observed and extreme caution would be imagined from both.

anonymos December 13, 2017 at 4:25 pm

Bayes theorem teaches us that even what *seems* like a prudent “false positive” test rate can have a higher than expected rate of false doping convictions:

In this case the problem is compounded by the automatic testing of the race leader. This year, Froome had 32 doping tests only due to being the race leader. That is a whole lot of lottery tickets entered into a game of career death.

nortonpdj December 13, 2017 at 5:58 pm

I don’t understand your point. No-one (as far as I know) is claiming a false positive result here.
The result is positive. The question is whether an allowed dose can give such a high analytical level and that will, I think, be a pharmokinetic battle.

anonymos December 13, 2017 at 6:08 pm

You do understand me: the test is meant to distinguish between inhaler use (okay) and tablets (forbidden).

So yeah the analytical level test may be very precise in determining the analytical level, but is the analytical level a good test for the actual doping test? That’s the pharmokinetic battle and that is where the false positive rate comes in.

ebbe December 13, 2017 at 8:47 pm

“he test is meant to distinguish between inhaler use (okay) and tablets (forbidden).”

Not necessarily. Limited inhaler use is OK. But excess inhaler use is also forbidden. Sky now has over one possible out: Proving that the measured levels were a result of non-excessive inhaler use, by giving Froome a non-excessive dose in a controlled environment and proving Froome produces special pee, eg when dehydrated

Morten Reippuert December 13, 2017 at 8:59 pm

LA, Ulrich, Basso, Valverde, Rasmussen and others has been tested just as much. Not a single positive.

By not testing positive in 32 test for a year does not equal beeing clean. We have seen too many non postive tested riders never beeing caught in actual doping tests.

Dan December 13, 2017 at 2:49 pm

“Regarding today’s news about Christopher Froome’s unfavourable test result during La Vuelta 2017, Unipublic, the organiser of La Vuelta, wishes to communicate that it will await the UCI’s official conclusions,” Unipublic said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.


Lol – We’ve still got a loooooooong way to go!!!

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 2:57 pm

It’s just a translation thing, from “adverse” finding and surely nothing to get too excited about?

JT December 13, 2017 at 2:53 pm

How accurate would the pk test actually be ? We are talking about a man who was at the end of a 2nd grand tour. Surely his physiology was different then compared to now ?

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Exactly but note the rules put the onus on Froome here.

gabriele December 13, 2017 at 3:04 pm

OTOH, he’s got plenty of time and shekels to try some sport science trick and enter the PK test with a favourably modified metabolism… people used to give it a try to prove their “natural values” at the UCI’s, sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.

BenW December 13, 2017 at 3:18 pm

That’s quite the accusation there, Gabriele. To whom are you referring?

gabriele December 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

Nobody currently racing, not even allowed to race anymore. Natural high haematocrit is obviously relatively common among elite cyclists and often we aren’t told who’s got it unless troubles occur (I myself discovered some names only recently); but I recall that someone had to repeat the test more than once to get his certificate.
I didn’t intend finger-pointing, what I meant was just that these lab tests can give you different results… even for the same person.

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 3:45 pm

If you are cheating then you have an incentive to game the tests too, makes you think about the PK tests and how you control/prevent a participant from taking the substance by illicit means.

Richard S December 14, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Didn’t Riccardo Ricco have a certificate to show that he had a naturally high haematocrit dating back to before he was a professional cyclist. Unfortunately it turned out that he had been doping since well before he turned pro! Also in Charlie Wagelius’ book he says that he had a certificate for a naturally high haematocrit over 50%.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 2:55 pm

Sorry for posting again, but in what way is salbutamol a masking agent? I’ve read this elsewhere and I also thought it was based on what WADA’s site says.
However, I’ve re-read that – it’s pasted below – and when mentioning salbutamol (among others), it says ‘in conjunction with a diuretic or masking agent’.

From WADA’s site.

If a Substance or Method is not defined in this list, please verify with your Anti-Doping Organization.
The following diuretics and masking agents are prohibited, as are other substances with a similar chemical structure or similar biological effect(s).
Including, but not limited to:
• Desmopressin; probenecid; plasma expanders, e.g. glyceroland intravenous administration of albumin, dextran, hydroxyethyl starch and mannitol.
• Acetazolamide; amiloride; bumetanide; canrenone; chlortalidone; etacrynic acid; furosemide; indapamide; metolazone; spironolactone; thiazides, e.g. bendroflumethiazide, chlorothiazide and hydrochlorothiazide; triamterene and vaptans, e.g. tolvaptan.
• Drospirenone; pamabrom; and ophthalmic use of carbonic anhydrase inhibitors (e.g. dorzolamide, brinzolamide).
• Local administration of felypressin in dental anaesthesia.
The detection in an Athlete’s Sample at all times or In-Competition, as applicable, of any quantity of the following substances subject to threshold limits: formoterol, salbutamol, cathine, ephedrine, methylephedrine and pseudoephedrine, in conjunction with a diuretic or masking agent, will be considered as an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) unless the Athlete has an approved Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for that substance in addition to the one granted for the diuretic or masking agent.

DaveRides December 13, 2017 at 6:59 pm

Salbutamol was formerly, and incorrectly, listed as a masking agent.

Use in conjunction with a masking agent is banned because it is assumed that the combination is being used to get around the salbutamol threshold limit of 1000 ng/mL concentration in a urine sample. As in, you are using so much of it that you should be hitting values of 2000+ ng/mL but the masking agent means your test shows up under the 1000 ng/mL limit.

Luigi December 13, 2017 at 3:16 pm

an interesting article on how an increase dosage of Salbutamol in not suitable for therapeutic reasons.

Talking about masking agents, it is interesting to note when the control happened. Stage 17, Nibali peaks his growth and flies at Los Manchucos; Froome is not in great shape, and commentators point at the long season of the Kenyan champion. Stage 18, on a similar ascent of the previous day, Froome puts about 20 second on Nibali, showing that there was no decline going on. Cloudy day on the race. Days after, rain and clouds. If you need a masking agent, use it when you need it. If you need to fight pollen, don’t do it when is rainy. The context points towards a plausible intended use of the substance.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 5:09 pm

Froome has exercise-induced asthma – so pollen is not involved.
(Not sure why Nibali decided to spout this nonsense.)

AG December 14, 2017 at 5:46 am

i’m asthmatic & among the things that trigger my attacks are cold weather (especially sudden drops in temperature like when ascending a long climb), dust mites & chick peas (go figure). everyone has different combination of triggers, cold weather been one.

its perfectly plausible that in the weather conditions you described, froome might resort to more puffs than usual.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 3:17 pm

Regardless of guilt or otherwise, I am disappointed. Froome’s entire career and reputation is now on the line. As Jeroen Swart has said (quoted above by J Evans) Froome and the Sky doctors have to have known that increasing the dose was likely to be picked up and any ban for Froome at this stage of 9 months (as Ulissi) or more means no grand tours in 2018 and the effective end of his career. I cannot see him coming back in 2019 at 34 and his reputation would be destroyed anyway. It seems to me that for Froome to get out of this he has to scientifically demonstrate that he stayed within the rules using a therapeutic product that gave an extraordinary result. I have no idea if he can do that but how Froome will be remembered seem to rely upon it entirely. I can only hope, for his sake, that Sky’s medical team have recorded and noted absolutely everything and that, this time, there are no missing laptops or fortuitous gaps in the paper trail.

DaveRides December 13, 2017 at 7:07 pm

Since the Ulissi case, the WADA Code has been updated with the length of all bans being doubled.

If Froome was to have his negotiated down by the same proportion as Ulissi did, he would be hit with an 18 month ban.

There’s also the Alessandro Petacchi case to consider, he was banned for one year which would be equivalent to two years under the new rules.

I’m guessing he’ll get about a year, and will come back for 2019 if Team Sky still exists then (there is talk about the corporate support being at risk).

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:21 pm

You are assuming this is over fast when I speculate the opposite might be true. Remember how long Contador’s case took to be decided? Froome may yet enter, and win, more grand tours before a final determination is forthcoming. Or, put it another way, he career might effectively be over anyway before a judgment is made. 2018 was perhaps his last year at his very top level in any case. hence why this could effectively be career-ending for him anyway.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 8:25 pm

That’s why I think they’ll stall, try to get him to win the Giro and Tour this year, and then take what’s coming – if needs be – after that. (All this would be based on it being true that any ban would not be backdated.)

Nick December 15, 2017 at 6:17 pm

Even if a ban isn’t backdated, any results between positive test and final decision would be annulled. So if Froome doesn’t show his innocence, he will lose the Worlds ITT result (and anything else he gets prior to the ban) as well as the Vuelta.

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 7:08 pm

Thanks Nick.

Busy Little Bee December 13, 2017 at 3:25 pm

this is old news, I was watching the Dauphine about 3 years ago at the foot of the big climb Froome alongside Contador after Nieve had done a turn at the front, Froome pulled out an inhaler and used it…..I thought the guy has some brass neck to be doing it right in front of the cameras.

BenW December 13, 2017 at 3:48 pm

It’s not old news. This article isn’t about Chris Froome having asthma. It’s legal to use an inhaler for Salbutamol, up to a dosage limit proscribed by WADA. Froome has breached this limit, quite substantially.

Chris James December 13, 2017 at 4:13 pm

I sometimes have a puff of my inhaler on the start line of a cyclocross race – how is that brass neck? You are legally allowed to use an inhaler. If anything, using an inhaler in the open might look like you have nothing to hide.

The question is how much salbutamol did he actually use, rather than did he use any. On the face of it, the finding suggests that he used an enormous amount!

Gingerflash December 13, 2017 at 3:40 pm

Just a word on that Swiss study.

They say the athlete in question had 9 (or even 12) puffs of his inhaler between 1 hour before his race and the doping control afterwards. Assuming this race was not more than 11 hours long (they don’t specify the sport or event), then it seems he exceed the maximum dose allowed by WADA of 800mcg in a 12 hour period.

Salbutamol inhalers are at least 100mcg per puff (most are 200mcg) so he had a minimum of 900mcg between an hour before and just after his race. Depending on his event, that might have been 900mcg in anything from 65 minutes to 6 hours.

This study falls a long way short of saying that the athlete in question reached those very high urinary levels through normal and permitted use of his inhaler.

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 3:43 pm

Good point, I should perhaps have made it clearer that this was an attempt to replicate a very high score, this didn’t happen even if it did show still high rates and as you say the doses used are very important here. It’s a means to show how the threshold can be exceeded at times but not much more.

benh December 13, 2017 at 3:41 pm

I’m looking forward to seeing how the BBC cover this on Sunday night, where Chris Froome is shortlisted fir the Sports Personality of the Year Award.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 3:47 pm

That’s easy, they won’t. The events Froome won weren’t on the BBC anyway. And Froome won’t win in any case. I’m not even sure he is scheduled to be there.

Larry T December 13, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Another in the seemingly constant drip of scandal with pro cycling. No winners here. Sanction and stripping of Froome’s results might be a fair result but does little to improve the image of pro cycling. Letting him off on a technicality is just as bad, maybe worse. How much longer before the SKY operation is seen as merely the most recent version of the BigTex organized crime syndicate?

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm

I was waiting for this comparison. If I had all day I would list the ways its not a fair one. Sky have certainly done many things wrong and, to be honest, heads should have rolled by now. But this case concerns use of a known medication that everyone has known Froome was using for years. Its a long way from blood bags and dodgy needles and enforcers in the peloton demanding silence. Sane analysis requires sane comparisons.

Larry T December 13, 2017 at 9:18 pm

Sane comparison? I seem to remember the beginning of the BigTex saga involved merely a TUE for cortisone and the claim was that it treated a saddle sore. That was a long way from blood bags, etc. too, which was the reason my question was “How much longer before…?” rather than simply claiming SKY was as bad as Tex and Co. It may never happen, but the fabled SKY marginal gains claptrap has taken another hit, no matter what happens to Froome.

Gazelle CM December 14, 2017 at 12:03 pm

Sky has a history of skating on thin ice, sailing close to the wind or in cycling terms riding close to the edge, no wonder they fall of the cliff.
Were they complacent? Froome was bound to be checked every day, was he so tired that he lost track of the number of puffs he took?
Questions. All in all I don’t think he should be more leniently treated than e.g. Petacchi.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 4:01 pm

The UCI should publish all drug test results.
Don’t sanction for drugs not on WADA’s list, just say what was found.
Teams have to agree to this to ride in UCI races – signing a contract.
The UCI would probably get the race organisers’ backing on this.
If it turned out that you couldn’t legally force teams to comply, you name the teams who refuse to sign.
Get it in the open and see how things change – and see how sponsors desert any teams who won’t sign.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:38 pm

Will never happen. A person’s right to medical privacy alone torpedoes it.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 4:44 pm

As I say, it’s voluntary, so that covers medical privacy.
And it’s only publishing results of voluntary drug tests that they take as part of the sport.
And if it’s not legal to force teams to do this as a part of taking part in the sport, the teams can say no.
All you do is name those who refuse to do it.
No privacy issues involved. No medical issues involved. Nothing to enforce.
You just name those teams that refuse to do it – and who’d sponsor those teams? (Well, Murdoch wouldn’t care, obviously.)

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:48 pm

It seems strange to me that you think this would be moral when what you’re arguing for is compliance based on coercion or trial by press and public.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 4:53 pm

No, it’s not.
You want to race? These are the tests.
You don’t want to do those tests? That will be public knowledge.
You don’t like that? Don’t do this job.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 7:53 pm

Another thing to consider, if all drug use/TUEs/test results were open public knowledge would Froome have taken quite so much of this drug? (It’s far more likely that he took too much than the result being caused by odd physiology.)
Would Wiggins have had his corticosteroid injections if he/Sky had known that the TUE would become public knowledge?

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:28 pm

Simply restating the same empty points over and over again is not reasoned argumentation. You are advocating trial by press and public and coercion to go along with rules. Your empty speculation about what Froome or others would have done are equally as empty. I imagine that Froome took as much as was necessary to be able to breathe properly. At least, thats what he says (and states that it was within the advised amounts). I understand your position but you never answer the obvious objections to it, preferring to simply repeat it over and over again.

Answer the point about medical privacy which is a European right, for example. That cannot by answered by a very glib “You don’t like that, don’t do this job”. If you don’t like the legal rights to medical privacy then don’t comment on this topic!

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 8:43 pm

‘I imagine that Froome took as much as was necessary to be able to breathe properly.’
That is speculation. Based on nothing.

I’ll try one last time:
Volunteering to allow the UCI to publish your drug test results is not an infringement of medical privacy: a) because you’ve volunteered it’s not ‘private’ anymore; b) it’s not your entire ‘medical’ history – it’s just drug test results.
You know, drug test results: the ones that cyclists allow the UCI to publish the results of.
The only difference is that this would be publishing the results of all drug tests – not just the banned drugs.
So, in terms of medical privacy, it’s no different.
And – as I have stated a few times – if it was not legal to force riders to do this (or even if it was considered unethical, which would be odd because they already do this with banned drugs), then the riders could refuse to allow their results to be published.
This refusal would become public knowledge – nothing else.
(I’m pretty sure everyone else got this the first time around – not saying they agreed – you seem to be the only one who can’t get to grips with this idea.)

NSR December 14, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Many jobs have drug testing. It is legal and considered ethical. Professional cyclists are already tested for drugs. Jevans suggestion is just making known all test results not only the bad ones. This is no difference to their medical privacy with what they do already.

Ronan December 13, 2017 at 4:49 pm

All riders have a fundamental right to both privacy and innocence, unless proven otherwise. It’s not an issue for the teams, it’s an issue for the individual.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 4:51 pm

There is no fundamental right to be a professional bike racer.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:31 pm

What a dumb response. You may have noticed from the window of your fantasy world that professional bike riders do share the same fundamental human rights as all other citizens though. Which includes the rights to medical privacy and to innocence until proven guilty. Are you really so slow as to not realise this? The issue is not a right to be a pro rider. Its a right REGARDLESS of employment. Really, this isn’t hard to understand.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 8:37 pm

I’ve already explained this to you elsewhere. It’s not my fault if you can’t comprehend that.
It would be voluntary.
If you refuse to do it that refusal is made public.
That’s it.

Above, you say:
‘Simply restating the same empty points over and over again is not reasoned argumentation.’ – but that’s what we’ve endured on here for years with your preposterous lionising of Froome.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 9:00 pm

Which bit of “its not voluntary if there is a penalty for not complying” escapes your tiny mind? IN the real world we call that coercion. Grow up.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 9:05 pm

There is no penalty.
Publicity is not a penalty.
Really, you’re telling a stranger on the internet to ‘grow up’ – having already resorted to insults?

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 9:06 pm

I shouldn’t have said ‘publicity’, I should have said ‘stating a fact in public’.

Mabarbie December 14, 2017 at 12:19 pm

I think you are completely correct. If I want to work on the railways I have to be drunk and drug free. If I don’t want to give up drink (I don’t do drugs) I can’t have a Railway job

Kit December 13, 2017 at 4:04 pm

Thanks Inrng for this class-leading analysis, once again proving you’re streets ahead of the rest of cycling media
You mention ‘known knowns’ vs ‘unknown knowns’, and so on, reminding me of a similar question I had about TUEs, namely why not make all this public? Of course the kangaroo court of media speculation is a problem, but surely more context etc is always to the good – and why should the AAF not be public back at Stage 18 of the Vuelta when the A sample was found? I realize it’s not like finding EPO, it’s a different class of substance, but if this is serious enough that it could potentially strip a result, why shouldn’t it be public like an EPO type finding?
Likewise when Ytes was banned for (as his team described it) forgetting to apply for a rolling TUE for Terbutaline, why didn’t we know he was on said TUE? It would have meant the press camped on his dad’s steps and the sensational headlines would have had some context, rather than just “he’s doping” damning headlines everywhere – followed by a very short ban and apparent absolution by its never having been mentioned by the media since.
Lots of people have been scratching their heads over how seemingly most of the top-performing endurance athletes seem to have asthma. Who knows if it’s true (I often wonder if I’ll develop it if I’m following an Italian Ape up a hill and breathing its extraordinarily foul smoke) but knowing how many of these athletes applied for TUEs and when in the calendar year would give a lot of context. I didn’t know until today (perhaps I missed it) that Nibali suffers as well. They all might suffer, but it’s odd they’re not more forthcoming – contrast for example with Alex Dowsett, who even founded a charity to support people suffering with the unusual medical problem he has (haemophilia), doing the opposite of keeping it quiet. Would a culture change help?

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 4:17 pm

This is a hard topic to be definitive on. You can be asthmatic and do sport, you can do sport and become asthmatic, you might not know you’re asthmatic until you do sport… and you may not be asthmatic at all but take asthma medicine for the possible performance advantages (even the placebo boost). But there’s no research into exercise induced asthma in the peloton so this quickly becomes a slippery slope of guesswork.

Paul December 13, 2017 at 4:13 pm

I watched the Vuelta coverage avidly and think its strange that we did not see him take a puff the whole GT?

I am pretty sure that the camears would have of picked it up as its contraversial?

Surely if you are using it legally you need the puff when you need the puff, possibly on a big climb?

Or am i missing the point?

Chris James December 13, 2017 at 4:27 pm

Yes, it is weird isn’t it? On the other hand he often has a cough during his post race interviews and that is pretty typical of poorly managed asthma. You usually use your inhaler 15 minutes or so before the effort to allow it to take effect so he could still be sat in a bunch at that point.

Simon December 13, 2017 at 5:15 pm

I’m a distance runner and don’t have any form of asthma, exercise induced or otherwise. In the hour or two after finishin a hard race its entirely normal for me to be coughing and wheezing like I’m a heavy smoker. I know many of my friends who are very similar.

Working very very hard does that to you. Whether he coughs or not doesn’t tell us anything of use.

Richard S December 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm

I thought it was commonly known as ‘track hack’, as in after a very hard all out effort in something like an individual pursuit you have a bit of a cough. I get it from time to time.

Chris James December 14, 2017 at 11:54 am

If you tell your doctor they will probably prescribe salbutamol for you. You have described exercise-induced bronchoconstriction, also known as exercise-induced asthma.

Rich December 13, 2017 at 5:38 pm

Have you thought that he might wait until the cameras aren’t on him to avoid more hysteria?

Paul Webb December 14, 2017 at 2:47 pm

Doesnt seem likely he would get a way with that for long as the cameras are over him pretty much the whole time, however you could have a valid point

Jairo December 13, 2017 at 4:16 pm

Señores el número mágico es 1000 ng/ml eso es mucho mil más de los permitido papá. ULISSIS GONTADOR y pare de contar .
Esto pica y se extiende Sky trae una deuda pendiente con la AAM y ya es tiempo de pagar.
Simplemente debe haber una sanción de cuanto tiempo no se despojaron de sus títulos de este año y pare de contar. Las cuentas son claras mijito no lo digo yo lo dicen las reglas dadas por la UCI.

Peter December 13, 2017 at 4:32 pm

A good article, thanks.

I’m not here to attack or defend Froome (since at the moment we don’t know the full story) but please can I defend asthmatics? There are a lot of views on the internet that either athletes shouldn’t compete if they have asthma or somehow non-asthmatics would gain a benefit by taking salbutamol. I disagree with both these points.

As a teenager I was a county class runner; with asthma! Without an inhaler I would go into oxygen debt quickly and my body would make me vomit in an attempt to make me stop running. Salbutamol is NOT performance enhancing; it just relaxes constricted airways. It did not make my heart stronger, my lungs bigger nor my legs faster. It just let me breathe again.
Asthma is not constant. Its effect is greater in the cold and greater during extreme exercise. So for me I did not need an inhaler every day. If I use my inhaler when I do not have asthma it does NOT make my airways any bigger. It does not enlarge normal airways! It simply help constricted airways relax.

I find it frustrating to read comments by people that asthmatics shouldn’t take part in competition if they need salbutamol. Well on that basis no athlete should ever take headache tablets. And pale skinned cyclist shouldn’t wear sun-cream.

On the point of dosage – anyone who’s ever used an inhaler knows its hit and miss how much of the medicine goes down your windpipe and how much sticks to the roof of your mouth. When I use my inhaler now I am sitting still and it still varies on every puff. Yes the inhaler dispenses a set volume of squirt but rarely does it all go down into the windpipe. So like most other asthmatics I tend to take an extra puff to get the full benefit. If I tried taking an inhaler whilst pedalling and breathing hard most of it would be spat back out. So I would be interested to know how Froome manages; does he take one extra for luck? I’d also be interested to know how he would be meant to record the time and dosage whilst riding a mountain stage.

Luigi December 13, 2017 at 4:37 pm

How many puffs do you take in a 150km ride? Just curiosity

BTW, athletes are allowed to use Ventolin, not to OVER use it, the limit set by WADA is very high. 800 in 12 hours, 1600 in 24 hours, 1000 is the limit for the test (800+200) and Froome had 2000. He could use it, not OVER use it

Nick December 13, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Just to note, the 1600 and the 2000 are not on the same scale. The allowed daily intake is 1600 micrograms per person. The test limit is 1000 nanograms per mililitre of urine. Froome’s level was 2,000 nanograms/ml, which is twice the threshold, but you can’t look at that and say “he scored 2,000 and he’s only allowed 1,600 per day”. They’re in different scales.

Luigi December 13, 2017 at 5:53 pm

And… your note is right (the numbers I listed don’t even make sense if they were on the same scale: 1600 in 24 is higher than 1000 🙂 ).

Peter December 13, 2017 at 5:17 pm

I don’t ride 150km! But as I said, every day is different. When I feel that I need it I will take 3 or 4 puffs but I don’t even know what my dosage is. And the amount that gets in my lungs is different every time. I assume that if the salbutamol condenses on my tongue instead of getting into my lungs it still gets into my blood (and therefore urine) ; it just doesn’t relieve the symptoms.

ZigaK December 13, 2017 at 5:50 pm

One puff contains 100 or 200 micrograms of salbutamol – depending on the packaging. My 3 year old son uses a 100 mg version for his bronchiolitis.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 4:46 pm

Great comment Peter, especially as a rebuttal those who say asthmatics shouldn’t take part in sport and regarding the difficulties that come along with the inhaler. It seems to me the rules around this aren’t exactly matching up to the facts of handling the problem itself in general.

Shearman December 13, 2017 at 4:50 pm

To back this up, I wasn’t diagnosed as asthmatic until I started running more seriously in my mid-20s, doing the amount needed to train for amateur half-marathons. In addition, I really struggle to use an inhaler as I find it hard to control the amount I’m breathing into my lungs and often worry I haven’t actually taken any/enough – I use a brown (preventer clenil modulite) inhaler morning and night too, now, so it’s not like I haven’t had plenty of practise! I have to use a spacer (and look like a small child) in order to be sure of my dosage. Obviously, I’m not needing to be as responsible for my salbutamol levels – and don’t compete anywhere near the front of a race.

CM December 13, 2017 at 6:12 pm

Very sane. And of course, testing of urine is not the whole story. For a start, urine cannot determine how the drug got into the body -by injection, pill or inhaler. Nevertheless, for inhaled medication you have not only the variables Peter points to- of how much is absorbed from the lining of the airways into the blood stream; but also the rate at which that concentration passes from the blood stream into the urine; thirdly if the individual is dehydrated the urine concentration could be very high. Are you likely to be dehydrated racing to a mountain finish?

Brendan Gallagher December 13, 2017 at 6:12 pm

Well said, there seems little or no understanding even among those proclaiming themselves as experts. It is not a designer illness, it is real, often very debilitating and on many occasions a killer although improvements in medication means you can get on top of it now. This is sports dilemma, the medication does readily exist to negate its worst effects although I have never seen any evidence which suggests that a genuine sufferer taking medication will somehow perform better if he was not having an asthma attack. Equally if you are not a sufferer and have no medical history of such it is quite clear that it can be a PED. So it is genuinely tricky. Cycling, runners and swimmers in particular face issues here and the Federations controlling and policing those sports. Asthma can also come and go – some years you don’t suffer at all, others you lurch from attack to attack – and can be triggered or exacerbated by a whole range of allergies that kick in at various times of the year. And of course some asthma is purely the result of the huge effort being put in at any one time , so called athletes or athletic asthma, when the harsh influx of air sucked in under pressure and perhaps also containing pollens or car fumes irritates and inflames the airways and lungs. This article is excellent but more balance and knowledge required overall in the reporting of this issue and asthma in sport

CM December 13, 2017 at 6:34 pm

A further point is that the asthmatics’ comments indicate how impossible it is for Froome to replicate conditions in order to prove his innocence. We started the day talking about the absurdity of starting a Tour of Italy in Jerusalem, and end it with absurd prospect of making a man ill to prove his innocence.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 7:06 pm

Or he can choose not to do said tests. Accept that he was twice the limit, that this is his responsibility and not contest whatever punishment he’s given.
Nobody is being forced to do anything.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:35 pm

Thats somewhat disingenuous. Ruin your career or prove your innocence is not a choice.

34x30 December 13, 2017 at 8:11 pm

From what I understand, doesn’t need to replicate conditions of the Vuelta test, just to show that under any specific condition he can attain 2000 ng/ml after an intake of 800 or 1600 µg. I don’t get the impression either that UCI impose specific condition. He is probably free to try any trick he wants to maximise absorption to obtain the highest plasma exposure. If he can show it is possible to achieve 2000 after a legal intake, then there is sufficient doubt about any possible illegal use – and he will be let off. I’m sure he’s very busy doing all sorts of PK tests to identify the optimal conditions for the controlled evaluation.

Sonja Neteu December 14, 2017 at 2:29 am


Paul Jakma December 14, 2017 at 1:26 pm

No one is saying asthmatics who can’t function or could even die without an inhaler should be denied an inhaler.

What some people are saying is that elite athletes engaged in competition, who have no need for inhalers in normal life, shouldn’t be allowed to game the system by taking substances known to have significant anabolic and metabolic affects for “exercise induced asthma”.

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 1:56 pm

1. Salbutamol doesn’t have any “significant” anabolic and metabolic effects. if you know different lift the sources.

2. Whether an individual suffers particularly badly from asthma when not competing is not germane to the inquiry. It is well known that athletes across many endurance sports can get exercise-induced asthma while competing. The medication loosens their tightened airways. Thats all it does. Effectively you seem to want asthmatics banned from sport.

J Evans December 14, 2017 at 2:18 pm

The jury’s still out on whether or not salbutamol is performance-enhancing. It’s not proven either way.
As is the case with most PE effects, the science is incomplete – because scientists don’t generally look for PE effects, because drug companies don’t focus on this and because the doses required to produce possible PE effects are often potentially dangerous.
If I’m allowed to post a URL:
– this is pretty good.

gabriele December 14, 2017 at 7:02 pm

Start here, it’s recent, I picked it randomly:
But you can type “salbutamol lipolysis”, “hemodynamics salbutamol”, “salbutamol metabolic rate”, “salbutamol anabolic” in Google and find a huge lot of studies which suggest how and why sport science could well find this little jewel *very* useful to enhance performance.
There are so many of them through the last 30 years that I won’t waste my time making a list for you (even the titles are eloquent enough, just type and scroll through).
I’d suggest to start from the academic sources, but body building pages are also interesting…
Like, salbutamol is the new clenbuterol, only better for humans.
And, hey, you can use it if you’ve got asthma, whereas clenbuterol… just ask Contador.

Cascarinho December 13, 2017 at 5:11 pm

A very complicated story again… Froome was aware of that affair when he decided to do the Giro. Do you think it’s possible that this test convinced him to do so, as a bargain ? “Don’t give me nine months and make me miss the Tour, six months is enough, I will already miss one of my big goals because of that thing…” I always found very strange he wanted to do the Giro the year where he could win the mythical fifth Tour. But maybe I have too much imagination.

Nick December 13, 2017 at 5:18 pm

Could be. The case of the Norwegian skier, Mundby, who got 2 months for 1,360 ng, suggested that there were 3 different scales that could be used for deciding the length of a ban:
i. significant degree of or considerable fault: 16-24 months, with a “standard” significant fault leading to a suspension of 20 months;
ii. normal degree of fault: 8-16 months, with a “standard” normal degree of fault leading to a suspension of 12 months;
iii. light degree of fault: 0-8 months, with a “standard” light degree of fault leading to a suspension of 4 months.

In this case, if the dose that caused the finding was in line with doctor’s advice, everything was done openly, and Froome mentioned Salbutamol in all his forms, then he might be looking at the 0-8 month range. He’d definitely lose the Vuelta title and Worlds medal, though.

Morten Reippuert December 13, 2017 at 9:42 pm

Danish Legal professor with speciality in sports and former chairman of the Danish Anti Doping Agency Jens Evald assumes a 16-24 month ban for Frome incl deletion of all results from the Vuelta and forward.

Tom December 13, 2017 at 5:13 pm

Welcome back from vacation, Inrng! Not much happened while you were gone.

Why wasn’t Team Sky monitoring this situation? Seriously, if I had a star rider taking a drug that could potentially trigger a positive, I’d have him pee in a cup every day and do my own testing to understand his pharmokinetics and prevent this. This is not new as riders themselves in the epo era kept spinners in their motel rooms to keep their hematocrits right below the legal limits.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:43 pm

Did you miss the bit where it was stated Sky doctors recommended the increased dosage and that the input was monitored to be within statutory limits? The point here, I think, is that even with the same athlete the output in a urine test can be different from test to test dependent on the circumstances of the time. Unless Froome had been extensively monitored on a constant basis and even tested to see what inputs of the drug gave what outputs in urine there would be no way for anyone to even guess at the results. As sports scientist Ross Tucker has said today, it makes a big difference if Froome’s regular output level was 900 ng/mL or 200 ng/mL. Its a lot more complicated than knowing that x amount put in equals x amount put out in a urine test.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 8:46 pm

Did you miss the bit where not everything Sky/Froome/Sky doctors say is true beyond any question?

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:59 pm

No, because its not. And I’ve never said it was. In fact, recently I’ve been very critical of Sky in general.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 9:03 pm

But you seem to take this on trust:
‘Did you miss the bit where it was stated Sky doctors recommended the increased dosage and that the input was monitored to be within statutory limits?’

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 1:47 pm

Without evidence to the contrary that is the narrative to be disproved. Can you disprove it?

Anonymous December 14, 2017 at 1:59 pm

In fact, it is now down to Sky and Froome to prove that this happened.

Larry T December 13, 2017 at 9:30 pm

” Sky doctors recommended the increased dosage and that the input was monitored to be within statutory limits? ” Are those the same guys who lose their laptops containing the medical records so conveniently? Your Froome fan-boy chamois is really getting bunched up here RonDe.
I promise I’m done with posts on this subject with this one, but I can’t help but ask about your human rights argument for privacy – is there a law preventing a pro license applicant from agreeing to specific terms regarding dope tests? As in “OK, Joe Crankarm, if you want a pro license these are the rules and terms you agree to. We can do X, Y and Z. If you’d rather not be subject to any of this don’t bother us.” Just as you agree to play by the rules when you take out a license, it would seem that you could agree to be tested publicly to make sure you’ve lived up to your agreement. Too often these sporting things get wrapped up in criminal court or human rights issues rather than simply SPORT.

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 1:50 pm

My answer is simple Larry. Because I take on a certain job I do not give up my civil rights in order to do so. And no job, except those which are very very specialised such as military ones for example, have the right to take away my civil rights of which medical privacy is certainly one. And it seems I’m not the only one who thinks this since sporting bodies worldwide base all their procedures upon this very same notion.

So there is no “simply sport”. For we are all citizens with civil and human rights.

NSR December 14, 2017 at 1:58 pm

Many jobs have drug tests. People who drive trains, buses, planes, police, and many other random jobs.
Cycling already has drug tests. Is this against their rights?

BC December 13, 2017 at 5:20 pm

One has to wonder how SKY have placed themselves in this position – again. There are several explanations, but whichever one chooses, the outcome is not good. It is not good for SKY, not good for cycling, not good for sponsors and not good for supporters. In my mind the obvious question is why do the management, doctor and rider appear to have learned nothing, absolutely nothing from the Wiggins fiasco ? And make no mistake it was an unmitigated and poorly managed fiasco.

It is simply not good enough to now have to argue the case for Froome. The damage and doubts have been sown. The case should never have arisen in the first place, and those responsible are better out of the sport. It saddens me to come to this conclusion, but if SKY decides the investment is becoming constantly tarnished, and withdrew their support, I for one would not be surprised.

Why Oh why is our sport constantly managed and administered by those better suited to a routine and mundane role in life.

David December 13, 2017 at 6:05 pm

The consequences of a Froome ban, I think, will lead to Sky pulling the plug. Too much bad publicity, bad for business and so on.
A real shame in the sense cycling has a real problem attracting big brand names to the sport in the form of team sponsorship. And as someone who lives in the UK their involvement in the sport has transformed it over here. Cycling is now hugely popular whereas when I started TTing up and down the A1 in the mid 80s it was a bit of an oddball’s sport. Cycling? Why on earth would you do that? Now, it’s a mainstream business and Sky has had a huge role in its rise in popularity. So many more people riding their bikes now.
I personally don’t think Froome dopes but rules are rules and he seems to have infringed them. They do seem to have some incompetent people there, mind, and their corporate governance seems shot. They’ve erred twice with both of their star riders. It suggests a pattern.
Their obsession with the TdF has for me made it hard to warm to them – I’m one of those who thinks the best three weeks of the cycling year start at San Remo and end at Roubaix as opposed to the 21 days in July – but neither have I lurched into the kind of viscous hatred this team seems to attract. If they do go, it will be a real blow for the sport as a whole.
As an aside to all this, Thomas, given his recent comments, might now be reconsidering whether to leave Sky or not – provided they don’t bail beforehand and make the decision for him.

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 6:07 pm

Coincidentally today’s blog post was going to explore why Sky could pull the plug… because the business media are reporting Disney could take over Fox (which owns Sky) and with this James Murdoch could step away too, he has been the team’s biggest backer. Sky do have other sponsors who could take over – see Ford – but with this kind of news you wonder if it becomes too risky.

Ecky Thump December 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm

If Froome is found guilty and banned, there is no point in continuing with the Team Sky project and his ban would surely bring down Brailsford as well?
Sky’s whole raison d’être was to win clean.
One could obviously argue that aim has been tarnished already but to ban their champion would make a nonsense of the team and its ethics.

ChrisSK December 15, 2017 at 9:54 pm

I’m sure they would continue to maintain that their version of ‘riding clean’ was putting the riders as close to the edge of cheating without stepping over the line as possible… TUEs, medication for chronic illnesses/ailments, marginal gains BUT without the illegal side of the doping of the 90s/00s.

CA December 14, 2017 at 3:19 pm

Exactly! Inrng you’ve hit the nail on the head. This has been way way too risky for sponsors for decades, which explains why major international sponsors tend to avoid the sport. If the biggest name in the sport can be labelled as the worst drug cheat since Armstrong because he was recommended by a physician to take an asthma drug, and the case hasn’t even been resolved yet, then Ford, Disney (obviously a kid’s movie company would never touch this), and other mainstream companies will never touch this!

That’s why confidentiality MUST be upheld in these matters. I haven’t read all 300 comments on this blog post, but I don’t see anyone discussing the study that Inrng posted showing that it’s possible for 12/32 study participants to have significantly elevated salbutamol after normal dosages. And that’s the problem, in the public’s eye Froome is now 100% guilty, he’s the worst human being ever to ride a bike and we’re forgetting that this is a process.

This sport has always been on the fringe of public sports and it will continue to be so until people can be rational about this. As much as people hate Lance and want him to pay, we’re forgetting that other sports are just as dirty (and continue to be so) but they have collective bargaining agreements protecting the rights and the public image of the superstars.

J Evans December 14, 2017 at 3:43 pm

CA, elsewhere you’ve said – ‘I think we should go the other way entirely from what we’re doing and publish everything’ – isn’t this contradictory?

For me, the rules of cycling are the problem.
They tolerate a wide range of drug use and when people are caught all sorts of excuses are accepted, and that’s if the tests are not kept secret.
All of this fosters cycling’s drug culture.
In the wider public realm, cycling is thought of as *the* drugged sport – rightly or wrongly.
That’s why sponsors don’t come into the sport.
Worst of all are the effects on the riders’ health.

For these reasons, I don’t think cycling should ape what other sports do (‘collective bargaining agreements protecting the rights and the public image of the superstars’) and sweep things under the carpet more than we already do.
I think you’ve got this the wrong way round: you seem to be suggesting that we need to alter the perception of cycling’s drug-taking, not its drug-taking.

Data is vital to knowledge: if we have the results of everyone’s drug tests for all drugs then we can actually have sensible and logical discussions and conclusions on what the situation is.
The current situation lends itself – with secrecy and inevitable leaks – to denial, conspiracy theories, lies, accusations and gaming the system.

Also, I don’t think people’s perceptions of Froome have much changed from this result – I know mine haven’t. There were those who were convinced that he’s clean – they still are, it seems; there were those who were convinced that he’s cheating; and then there were the majority of us who are not sure – with those varying from probably cheating to probably not and everything in between. I don’t think most people are thinking ‘Froome is now 100% guilty’.
I’ve always been one of the ‘unsure, but suspicious’ and I still am.
The people who are ‘certain’, either way, will never change their minds – the rest of us, i.e. most people, would decide based on the information we have. Ergo, more information is better.

CA December 14, 2017 at 4:03 pm

J Evans – I did say that, and I think we should, but there’s a big problem with that. If it’s only Sky, or Froome, then people will proclaim he’s a cheat when they see some things he’s using, even if the rest of the peloton is using the same things.

Until a rational method for all cyclists (and preferably ALL athletes under WADA’s and North American sports CBA’s) to release this information, we can’t have a free-for-all where some athlete’s cases are leaked yet others’ are allowed to be ajudicated in a confidential manner. It is all or nothing.

Guaranteed that while Froome’s case has been going on, WADA has looked at multiple other cases of a similar nature but they haven’t been leaked. The leaking is going to cause Walt Disney to drop Team Sky. When that happens, our sport will take a major hit financially, which in turn tempts riders to dope… it’s happened every single decade… gaps in funding create temptation for cheating, which results in more cheating.

People wonder why cyclists crave privacy, it’s because any leak about what they’re doing causes them to be branded cheats. Wouldn’t you hide your results (even if they’re clean) if you knew someone would call you a cheat for having a naturally high rate of something???

J Evans December 14, 2017 at 4:19 pm

I didn’t say do it for ‘only Sky, or Froome,’ – I said do it for all cycling.
That way, all the test results are out there, we can compare everyone’s, no-one is disadvantaged by having only their stuff released, no leaks and we’d have a much better idea of what is going on.
I’m not sure there’s evidence of any financial issues causing doping.
There is evidence of a lack of transparency allowing doping.

CA December 14, 2017 at 4:39 pm

Obviously I agree with you that this would be ideal. But this issue is really complicated and you’ll never get an ideal solution.

Look, Rupert Murdoch will have to change the team to Team Murdoch once he gets Disney’s $60B. Using the most conservative estimates for investment returns on this principal base means that the Murdoch family can use 2.78% of the annual investment returns after tax to fund the most successful cycling team in the pro peloton. Team Murdoch will personally pay all legal bills to fight doping cases and his riders will sweep all Monuments, Semi-Classics, GTs and the World titles every year.

My calculation of 2.78% is based on [$50M USD top team budget / ($60B USD x estimated 3% after-tax returns per year)].

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 7:38 pm

An awful lot of people might think that cycling would be better without Sky’s overwhelming financial advantage (whatever official accounts might say, look at their roster), highly tedious tactics (other teams might well do that, but won’t have quite such superior domestiques), hubris, shady practices and disingenuous preaching.
(And I don’t see another sponsor taking them on – NewsCorp don’t care because they have no ethics.)

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:45 pm

Bahrain Merida and UAE don’t strike you as mega teams with billionaire backing then?

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 8:48 pm

See the teams’ rosters.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:57 pm

See the teams budgets. You did mention money, after all.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 9:02 pm

Yes, I said ‘whatever official accounts might say, look at their roster’ – evidently, Sky employ far better riders.

David December 13, 2017 at 11:42 pm

They’re not blue riband sponsors – they’re Gulf states sponsoring a team. Come to Bahrain! Come to the UAE!
They might have millions but they don’t have cache.
Buy Sky products! That’s what sponsorship is about.
But like them or loathe them, Sky – as opposed to Gulf states – is the kind of multi-national that cycling has had problems attracting in recent years.

gabriele December 14, 2017 at 7:03 pm

The team budgets of those teams are *way* smaller than Sky’s.

sbs December 13, 2017 at 5:20 pm

UK cycling is A M A Z I N G , Brailsford and his steroids, jiffy bags, doper Wiggins, Froome with his cortisteroid (“TUE” heh) and now asthma-drug, all their TUES in recent years. Congratulations to all Froome FANS! BIG DAY! Big crash of British Cycling.

Froome was stronger than Armstrong with blood doping and you wanted to believe IT’S TRUE? ; ) WOWZERS.

The Inner Ring December 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Try to bring something useful rather than trying to provoke responses with caps lock comments that make you look a bit unhinged.

sbs December 13, 2017 at 5:51 pm

Did I offend anyone here with my 15 capses (15 letters)? 😉 Did I say anything which is not true about TUEs , jiffy bags, Brailsford, Wiggins and Froome? And explaine me what difference these 15 capses make. Be as objective as you can and don’t blame capses, don’t focus on capses. Focus on doping. But maybe these silent letters scream now? Scream for justice? For truth?

Do you want to tell me what to write and what not, what words use and what not? I don’t think so. Internet is a platform of freedom and I respect freedom and each person on this planet, but not CHEATERS.

Yes, if it makes you happy, I’m unhinged, I’m drunken with joy today as Welsh one day was. I still believe in clear cycling. In the far future. BTW, this is the best blog in the internet and you’re doing a great job^2, but before you become a teacher, beware who do you want to teach and on what subject. But first things first, take lessons in objectivity to be even better tomorrow than you’re today. Thanx.

BenW December 14, 2017 at 11:10 am

It’s amazing how quickly reason goes out the window on comments for articles like this.

ZigaK December 13, 2017 at 5:58 pm

Even took the time to put space between the letters. Wowzers! 🙂

DAVE December 13, 2017 at 10:33 pm

Nice to hear someone else say wowzers!

chuck December 13, 2017 at 5:37 pm

The second study mentioned by inrng ( is interesting to look at. (My uni library has the journal online.) In the study, not only did 20 athletes test over the 1000ng/ml limit when taking the max permitted dose; 7 of those 20 tested over 2000 with a couple results over 3500.

Granted, the test conditions are very different than race conditions, but it does show that it is *possible* to end up with high amounts of the drug in your urine and still be within the legal dose limits.

Of course this does not exonerate Froome, but it does, at least, suggest that it is potentially plausible that he didn’t cheat–in the sense of trying to evade the rules. Clearly, he broke the rules to the extent that his pee had too much salbutamol in it….

34x30 December 13, 2017 at 8:28 pm

This paper is also relevant:

That this is so well documented does question why Sky allowed such risky use even if everything was perfectly legal. Sounds like a very high risk strategy.

These are the main points from the abstract:
To examine the impact of dehydration, ethnicity, and gender on urinary concentrations of salbutamol in relation to the threshold stipulated by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).

Eighteen male and 14 female athletes (9 white males, 9 white females, 2 Afro-Caribbean males, 2 Afro-Caribbean females, 6 Asian [Indian subcontinent] males, and 4 Asian females) were recruited. All participants were nonasthmatic.
After inhalation of 800 μg or 1600 μg of salbutamol, athletes exercised in a hot controlled environment (35°C, 40% relative humidity) at a self-selected pace until a target weight loss (2% or 5%) was achieved.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Urine concentration of free salbutamol.
After inhalation of 1600 μg salbutamol, 20 participants presented with a urine salbutamol concentrations above the current WADA limit (1000 ng/mL) and decision limit (1200 ng/mL) resulting in an adverse analytical finding. There were no differences according to gender or ethnic origin.
Dehydration equivalent to a body mass loss greater than 2% concomitant to the acute inhalation of 1600 μg of salbutamol may result in a urine concentration above the current WADA limit and decision limit leading to a positive test finding independent of gender or ethnic origin.
Asthmatic athletes using salbutamol should receive clear dosing advise and education to minimize the risk of inhaling doses of salbutamol that may produce urine concentrations of salbutamol above 1200 ng/mL.

Mendip5000 December 14, 2017 at 12:09 am

Thanks for sharing the range of results. I was very curious to see where Froome’s results write have been on that study.

There’s another study that was aiming to argue WADA should lower the threshold in which they talk about adjusting the urine level for specific gravity, presumably as a pricy for dehydration. I wonder if that’s an agreed adjustment that will be brought into the PK testing?

CA December 14, 2017 at 3:27 pm

In a way it does exonerate Froome. For example, as Inrng stated, Froome has to “prove” he could have these test scores without taking over the legal limit. What is the standard of proof? In criminal proceedings the standard a prosecuting lawyer must hit is 99% (in theory, in practice it is different, but bear with me), in civil proceedings the standard is 50%. In terms of this situation, I’m not sure what the standard is, but the study Inrng posted shows 20/32 people tested positive, 62.5% probability. Now that doesn’t exactly translate to legal standard of proof, but that does show in my opinion that there is a significant chance that Froome’s legal dosage caused this.

Are there any lawyers who specialise in sports drug cases who can comment in more detail?

Nick December 14, 2017 at 6:40 pm

I’m not a lawyer specialising in sports drug cases, but rule 10.4 of the WADA code suggests that the standard of proof for Froome in a case like this is “comfortable satisfaction” of the panel. This is the normal standard of proof that the ADA has to meet, and is described as “greater than a mere balance of probability but less than proof beyond a reasonable doubt”. So somewhere between 99% and (50%+1)!

gabriele December 14, 2017 at 7:21 pm

That study is hardly compatible with Froome. It’s next to impossible that he was dehydrated, given his performance on the final 5′ wall on which the stage finished.
Anyway, probability and percentages don’t work like that ^__^

CA December 14, 2017 at 9:22 pm

Probability and percentages DO work like that, as best as they can, in law. Obviously it’s impossible to tie these processes exactly to mathematical probabilities, but they attempt to.

gabriele December 14, 2017 at 10:37 pm

What I mean is that you can’t take *one* study and extrapolate.
For example, let’s take… Froome’s case: the most probable thing is that you can’t use *that* study and apply it to Froome’s chances (to start with, because it’s highly unlikely that he was dehydrated, considering how he performed just before the test – performance and dehydration are related).
Besides, since individual metabolism is hugely relevant and highly variable, those 32 people wouldn’t be anyway an acceptable sample to define a standard for the general population.
The specific probability of Froome’s value being due to a regular assumption must be calculated on him.

sbs December 13, 2017 at 6:21 pm

TOPIC: Chris Froome’s Salbutamol Case

“CASE”! 😉 Nice euphemism 😉

If it’s DOPING, then you close your blog all right? If it’s CASE then I don’t comment anymore here?

ps. no, I don’t want you to close your blog, it would be the biggest loss in cycling (as you can see it’s one big cheat in sky) but Man,… once the case spreads I hope you will attune your attitude to the real spirit of this case.

Francisco December 13, 2017 at 11:32 pm

It is a case and will remain so until the investigation ends. Please respect our host and your fellow readers.

BenW December 14, 2017 at 11:13 am

“Case” is the correct English for this particular instance. But carry on with your ranting, now, won’t you?

xfboy December 13, 2017 at 6:23 pm

Do you think that given complexity of testing ultimately the practice of giving TUE exemptions will be stopped? This will mean on any given race / race-day / season the rider who can perform without medical aid will be the winner.
It would likely change the landscape and some very talented riders who need TUE’s may not come to prominence but some other rides who don’t need TUE’s will and there will be champions who don’t need TUE’s.
This may not be the fairest solution for everyone in that some talented people who need TUE’s to race will be hampered but it may be the only solution that is practicable in a fair and consistent manner.

Mario December 13, 2017 at 6:25 pm

Good evning everyone! As I wrote couple monts ago I will back here when Froom will be catched on positiv drugs. So here I am suckers. Yes, yes of course, he is clear, its only asthma. nananaaaaa

sbs December 13, 2017 at 6:27 pm

Greetings Mario! We’re in two here. Let’s start the party.

sbs December 13, 2017 at 6:29 pm

I’d add more to the discussion as some requested.

LANCE destroyed cycling. 7 victories in TDF. But he wasn’t alone. Everyone doped then.

FROOME destroyed cycling totally. Because it was AFTER Armstrong era. Because he is the only one cheater. Quintana, Nibali, Pinot, Zakarin, Majka, Valverde, Lopez, Chaves ALL GO CLEAN. He is the only one (with Wiggins).

CA December 13, 2017 at 9:04 pm

sbs – what are you on about…. Are you kidding in thinking that Froome is the only GC contender to push or cross the limits?!? Most of the guys you’ve discussed have had question marks.

In fact, Zakarin has served time for STEROID use, so give your head a shake if you think Team Sky riders are the only ones who don’t rely on bread and water.

ChrisSK December 15, 2017 at 10:03 pm

What kind of alternate reality are you living in, if Froome is stretching the rules, its reasonable assumption everyone else is doing everything they can to find an edge too. The WADA List, the controls and the benchmarks triggering the adverse finding are there as precaution not to trip the wire.

sbs December 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm

Froome won 4 TDFs. Got caught only on the last Vuelta, but all real cycling fans know that all his victories are CHEAT. So the last 5 years in cycling were one big LIE.

DaveRides December 13, 2017 at 7:27 pm

Regarding this bit:

> Because salbutamol is a Specified Substance. The UCI doesn’t normally suspend riders following A sample findings for this category. Something has happened to make it leak out now perhaps simply because the circle of people involved grew large. Le Monde says UCI President David Lappartient was informed upon his election in Bergen, which makes us wonder about the independence of the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation if it reports news to the UCI President.

My theory as to how this played out is that the UCI report on the A-sample if it is a Non-Specified Substance that sees the rider immediately put on provisional suspension, but they report only after the B-sample when it’s a Specified Substance.
The B-sample having now been returned, it was ready to be reported now and someone leaked it just before the UCI was going to release their statement.

I don’t think it’s cause for CADF’s independence to be questioned, though I would say that ‘autonomous’ is a better word for the relationship than ‘independent.’ Performing the testing impartially and feeding results back to the UCI is all they do, it is still up to the UCI to convene tribunal hearings, conduct results management, enforce reversal of prizes etc.

E_Pi December 13, 2017 at 7:43 pm

Any ‘professional’ sport where strength/endurance matter more than skill/technique is in a severe crisis. This just won’t ever stop.
When pharmacology generates more headlines than the sport itself what’s even the point of it any more?

I once cycled the full length of Britain alone, on a crappy bike, in hiking boots and with a tent on my back… I never could understand this Brailsford-esque desire to win at all costs that’s destroying everything in its path.

I hope Mr Inrng is enjoying his first day back in the office(!)

For What Its Worth December 13, 2017 at 8:02 pm

Presumably Froome was tested the days on either side of the adverse result and was ‘clean’ on those days. So we’re only talking about one day’s result. Does that change anything? If he’s only over the limit for one day?

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:55 pm

He was tested every day he was in yellow or red this year. So over 30 times for this one adverse finding. I’m sure his case will be to prove a therapeutic use that has returned an extraordinary but explainable finding. Of course, you could say he may not have deliberately cheated but is responsible for breaching the current legal amount anyway. People are culpable is they break laws deliberately or by accident. I suspect we will be going through many courts before we finally know the outcome.

Digahole December 13, 2017 at 8:59 pm


ebbe December 13, 2017 at 9:09 pm

Yes, of course it does! That’s the whole point of drug testing: You get caught once, even if you’ve been tested a million times, you’re banned

Of course there’s ample opportunity to get the result overturned if you have good arguments… But it’s still a “one strike and you’re out” business. As it should be

MJMC December 14, 2017 at 12:53 am

“Does that change anything? If he’s only over the limit for one day?”

It is possible that they could be waiting for the results of other B sample tests…

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 8:03 pm

With a one day result like this being so much higher than all his previous results how could it be that his physiology was so much more different on one day?
That’s very unlikely when it’s a guy who uses his puffer all the time and who has expert medical advice, and who isn’t likely to be naive enough to dehydrate himself too much.
What seems more likely is that he took a big dose right into his system – rather than in his inhaler – because he was struggling a lot the day before.
And then he came back fighting the next day.
That might seem unlikely because he’d surely be caught?
But he really wanted to win that Vuelta and, at that point, he might have thought he had someone friendly in the highest places – that changed recently – and he could excuse it, if necessary, by saying ‘it must have been a weird result from my inhaler use’.
This is speculation, but it’s also a possible explanation – and I doubt we’ll hear anything else that will be any more plausible in the coming weeks. And, besides, it wouldn’t be the first time that this sort of thing happened in cycling, or any other sport.

CA December 13, 2017 at 8:15 pm

C’mon, pretty wild speculation. Is there any evidence that Salbutamol can be used as a recovery tool? A huge dosage by pill one day wouldn’t help on the next day, correct?

Seriously, whoever leaked this should be fired, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is a common occurrence at WADA.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 8:23 pm

As I say, it’s speculation, but…
What’s more plausible?
That he took a huge number of puffs?
That on that one day his body reacted completely differently from all the other days he races a bike using this inhaler?
I’m open to suggestions: what’s more plausible?

If it was open who was taking what and then this was a common occurrence, then this wouldn’t be a big deal.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 8:32 pm

Just found this – from someone called Neuron1 (who I believe is a doctor – or claims to be at least!) – on cyclingtips article on this: (I’ve no idea if it’s correct, as they say, you’ll have to do the research yourself)

At the end of a GT the body experiences adrenal and testicular exhaustion which results in the heart rate not increasing as would be expected during Zone 3 exercise. This results in a decline in power output over the course of a GT, as shown in several recent papers. Combined with the onset of central fatigue, which also lowers drive to the periphery, motor function declines. High doses of beta-2 agonists would reverse this central fatigue and allow the heart rate to increase in parallel. (There are numerous references on this topic, but you will have to do the research yourself.) In the past Sky used glucocorticoids for this effect, but with the scrutiny they needed another less obvious avenue, salbuatmol. High doses of caffeine or amphetaimes would have the same effects, but we couldn’t have Froome punching out the other rirders a la The badger, or Froome vs Aru at this year’s Tour. One could speculate, a small oral dose combined with a inhaled doses would give the desired pulmonary and central results and dehydration would be the excuse for the elevated urine levels. See, we can cheat and already have the legal defense if you test positive.

RonDe December 13, 2017 at 8:56 pm

J Evans is the king of speculation. He reads a website and thinks he’s now an expert.

Anonymous December 13, 2017 at 9:01 pm

You dropped your handbag.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 9:44 pm

Nowhere have I claimed to be an expert. I have posted ideas – someone else’s ideas as I openly admitted from the beginning.
I don’t know if they’re true.
I also don’t know how much expertise this person has – or how much expertise Sky’s doctors and other experts have.
But I’m willing and happy to concede that I don’t know what’s happened here, that a lot of people might know a lot more on this than I do, and that those people might also work for Sky and that Sky might not be the last word in honesty. I’m open to ideas.
You, on the other hand, seem to be very biased and certain in your views, and are ostensibly getting a bit emotional about what is someone you don’t know maybe or maybe not taking some drugs.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 9:27 pm

Neuron1 further responded:

JE here is a start: http://journals.humankineti…. and…. This in combination with…. Knowing the physiology and pharmacology of beta 2 agonists at elevated levels one can surmise the point I made above. As I noted in another post high doses of caffeine, amphetamines and glucocorticoids would have a similar effect. (Too obvious these days) The important point is that the asthma is a red herring, they are using the drug intentionally for it’s side effect profile. If Froome used his inhaler 30 or more times during the race, especially in the last portion, don’t you think someone would have seen/reported it or taped it. We also are told that Tim Kerrison, the physiology guy at Sky is a genius. He, I believe, is the brains behind the glucocorticoids/N-Acetylcysteine issue. Adrenergic insensitivity will result in the inability to increase power at critical periods and lowered heart rate as the race progresses. A rider need not use it, salbutamol, all the time, just surgically to gain time on a rival, put the race just far enough out of reach that the leader just needs to defend and sit on his teammates wheels. The attacker needs to risk more with attacks as we saw with Nibali crashing on the descent on Stage 20.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 9:30 pm

Neuron1 also adds:
(You can find this in the comments on The Secret Pro on cyclingtips with some URLs that I’ve not posted here – the other one I quoted was on the original Froome article on there.)

Knowing the physiology and pharmacology of beta 2 agonists at elevated levels one can surmise the point I made above. As I noted in another post high doses of caffeine, amphetamines and glucocorticoids would have a similar effect. (Too obvious these days) The important point is that the asthma is a red herring, they are using the drug intentionally for it’s side effect profile. If Froome used his inhaler 30 or more times during the race, especially in the last portion, don’t you think someone would have seen/reported it or taped it. We also are told that Tim Kerrison, the physiology guy at Sky is a genius. He, I believe, is the brains behind the glucocorticoids/N-Acetylcysteine issue. Adrenergic insensitivity will result in the inability to increase power at critical periods and lowered heart rate as the race progresses. A rider need not use it, salbutamol, all the time, just surgically to gain time on a rival, put the race just far enough out of reach that the leader just needs to defend and sit on his teammates wheels. The attacker needs to risk more with attacks as we saw with Nibali crashing on the descent on Stage 20.

DJW December 13, 2017 at 8:51 pm

Don’t know if this has not already been said, but part of the difficulty seems that two measures are defined:
1 the dosage which can be taken in a given period
2 the concentration in a urine sample
As, due to many factors, the correlation of the two will be approximate the prosecuting authority are forced to take into account the first while only having a value for the second. This appears to have created the problem in this case, and probably in others to which the public have not been not party.

Alex December 13, 2017 at 9:19 pm

Welcome back from holiday Mr Inrng. Nothing like a bit of off season news to spice up the boards.

J Evans December 13, 2017 at 9:52 pm

Dave Brailsford’s just released a personal statement:
‘Nothing will be unclear until everything is unclear and whilst to repeat my earlier statement would be to confute it, when it comes to Team Sky, our ethos has always been that it is, in fact, one and the same thing to have a suspension of belief and disbelief.’

CA December 13, 2017 at 10:00 pm

oh my…

The GCW / Strictly Amateur December 14, 2017 at 1:11 am

Honestly, I comfortable waiting for an official announcement to make My final decision regarding this specific issue.


I’m tired of Brailsford and company. They originated claiming they were going to be cleaner than anyone else. They let go good people who simply had an aura of guilt, in the beginning. They came across like they were going to be so clean there would never ever be ANY QUESTION ABOUT THIER MORAL INTEGRITY. They’ve refrained from MPCC-style rules. They have now garnered a number of questionable judgements. They’re a mess. They ARE PERFORMING A LIMBO, MESSING WITH ALL OF CYCLING.

There seems to be no end to the line-up of instances in which they push the envelope of what they can get by with right up to the line – IN ORDER TO WIN.


If You can not breathe and get TUE You can’t race.


Dai Bank December 13, 2017 at 10:56 pm

Welcome back,I guess from the polemics released in the comments this might be the post that has and will generate the highest number ever seen on your blog.
I am just going to thank you for attempting to shed light on some of the issues that will impact on Froome introducing them to a wider public. Interesting times ahead for Sky…

Wackynonymouse2 December 13, 2017 at 11:43 pm

168 comments so far, has the judge delivered its keyboard verdict yet? I’m bored stupid of all this and its only day 1.

Kit December 13, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Interested to see on VG that Sundby took 15,000 ųg, where legal limit is 1,600. Yet Sundby was measured at only 1340ng/ml, much lower than Froome.
As the Swiss study shows this is not a simple link, but we could be talking an enormous, enormous dose to reach 2000ng/ml. (NO)

Eskerrik Asko December 14, 2017 at 5:14 am

I don’t know whether you read Norwegian or not, but one of the key issues of the Sundby saga was that he did not use an inhalator (like Froome and most other athletes do) but a nebulizer. The Norwegian federation and its doctors argued that research had shown that no more than 10% of what it says on the label is actually taken up when using a fumigator and therefore it was not only entirely legal but also perfectly ethical to take a nominal dose of 15,000 ųg.
WADA did not agree and was of the opinion that according to studies up to 40% could be taken up and in any case the legal limit of 1,600 ųg applied regardless of the method. CAS ruled that this was indeed so, but since the wording of the doping code was not clear enough on this point it found that the Norwegians’ interpretation was not intended as a breach of the code.

PS Joerg Jaksche, the retired German cyclist of Operacion Peurto and subsequent doping confession fame and now living a normal life outside cycling in Australia, tweeted: “# neverforgetinyourcalculationthebloodbagleftovers” and as far as speculation goes it strikes me as a no better or worse explanation for the AAF than it was in Contador’s case.

PPS Dept. of small corrections: Sundby was not stripped of his World Cup title, he lost it because he was stripped of the two wins in the races where his urine samples were over the limit and the without those WC points he had less total points than Dario Cologna who therefore “inherited” the title.

The Inner Ring December 14, 2017 at 10:17 am

People can get the full Sundby case here in English (there’s a summary in it if you don’t want to read all 60 pages)

BenW December 14, 2017 at 11:55 am

Depends. If they find plastic residue in Froome’s blood then it’s a blood bag case, as that’s what happened with Contador. There was plastic residue found but all they could successfully pin on him at the time was the clenbuterol.

But other than that baseless speculation, feel free to make as many helpful insinuations as you like.

Eskerrik Asko December 14, 2017 at 5:20 pm

The plasticiser found in Contador’s sample(s?) was in the news and widely commented and speculated upon, but I cannot remember whether the actual amount was mentioned in the CAS ruling or whether t wa deemed that the amount was so high that there was no other reasonable explanation for it, i.e. that it was so much higher than anyone could get from drink bottles and other sources. In other words, that it could not result from oral digestion.

I leave both helpful and unhelpful insinuations to the armchair experts who had and have a special insight into the Contador and, indeed, every other doping case. I brought up Jaksche’s tweet as such, complete with the source, because I thought it interesting and believed that readers would be perfectly capable of considering it on its own merit.

I’m fairly sure neither of us has any idea of the amount of plasticiser in Froome’s samples and it is perfectly unfruitful to speculate. It could, however, be interesting to know how much the salbutamol in a bag – if that is the amount administered for blood doping purposes these days – of blood could theoretically raise the amount of salbutamol in a urine sample.

gabriele December 14, 2017 at 7:10 pm

If you don’t look for them, you won’t find ’em, feel assured. And we won’t ever know if Froome’s sample were being sent to any special lab who could get special results as with Contador.
Besides, platicizers aren’t a proof of anything because you can find them in the blood of lots of people, including many who never underwent transfusions.
This isn’t meant to deny that Contador might have undergone transfusions in any point of his career, it’s just that the plasticizers thing doesn’t mean anything (and, well, otherwise they’d use it as a test for transfusions…).

haps December 14, 2017 at 12:11 am

Just gotten through all the comments, I feel better informed on the subject! Thanx Guys!

In legal terms, you are guilty or not guilty, not guilty does not always mean innocent.
What was the verdict of Bertidor, that we was convicted of having Clebuturol in his system, which is illegal, but it was not a clear doping conviction… I am sure somebody can explain this clearer…

My point is that Froome story will probably be something along those lines, he will be guilty in “legal” terms but probably not guilty in say Ethical terms, since it was treating a concrete condition.

I personally think its a shame for cycling, shame for froome, because I have come to like him.
If Sky end up pulling out, it would be a shame IMO, since I think they have brought a innovative angle to cycling. But Heck in a few years I will be rooting for Dumolin and Lopez etc. Cycling life will move on…

Bueno my points was to give props for all the good comments.
Cyclign is never boring even in the off season.

Mendip5000 December 14, 2017 at 12:15 am

Or not. See study referenced above.

Sonja Neteu December 14, 2017 at 1:03 am

When Sergio Henao was asked for abnormal values from his blood tests, not doping, the Sky team pulled him off the team claiming that this was his policy.

Why don’t they use the same policy with Froome?

Adrian Holman December 14, 2017 at 9:19 am

Possibly as there is no racing at the moment?

Sonja Neteu December 14, 2017 at 5:09 pm

But he continues training with the team in Palma de Mallorca

JP December 14, 2017 at 3:56 am

Could have his preventative medicines contributed to the high salbutamol levels? I know that many contain long acting a Beta 2 agonist for muscle relaxant as well as the steroid that reduces inflammation.

J Evans December 14, 2017 at 12:24 pm

Only if they were also salbutamol, which he’s not allowed to take other than by inhaler.

Larrick December 14, 2017 at 4:26 am

Thanks for the clarity and information given in your piece Inrng.

Just to add on to the comments on how many people find themselves in this situation, WADA do release stats though last years aren’t available till next year. 2015 is available however.

On AAFs, cycling had 244 cases with 144 resulting in an ADRV. 22 cases were pending so 78 cases resulted in no punishment. They are broken down to discipline though 72 cases are listed as ‘Cycling’. ‘Road’ has 111 cases with 8 pending and 61 ADRVs. That’s 42 no punishments.

Ulissi was one case obviously but it goes to show this is not even common knowledge for those that receive a punishment.

The Inner Ring December 14, 2017 at 12:21 pm

Thanks for this, very useful to share.

Sonja Neteu December 14, 2017 at 5:30 pm
CA December 14, 2017 at 5:41 pm

Larrick – excellent, thanks for bringing this in. So, to continue Tony Martin’s train of thought, was it preferential treatment or a huge scandal that the 42 no punishment cases were not fully disclosed at the time they were opened? IMHO it is absolutely essential that these cases are not released until they are resolved, otherwise public opinion destroys any chances of an objective process.

This is exactly why Froome’s case was not disclosed and why it is a huge shame that it has been leaked. As I mentioned earlier, whoever leaked it should be fired for cause and sued, regardless of the outcome of this case. There are clear damages and this person has very likely violated their employment policy. If I leaked any documents about a client’s earnings to anyone (even my wife) I’d be terminated, sued, potentially lose my accounting designation and would have a very hard time finding employment in the future.

STS December 14, 2017 at 11:57 pm

+1, CA. Leaking that stuff and especially that case concerning such a prominent figure does not have any positive effects for anyone involved. Everybody in cycling suffers. What if it turns out Froome did nothing wrong here? If he can’t prove that he can reach those values of salbutamol in his urine by administering only the allowed dosage and therefore receives a ban it will become public anyway.

I can’t understand why it’s so hard to keep those things secret especially when the involved parties know that the risk for leaks is high and media will do anything to get hold of stories like this.
And why do we never read about the ones who leaked those stories being identified and sued afterwards?

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 12:20 am

The TAS sentence had some lines about Contador having been treated unfairly from a similar POV (I know that the substance and the rules are different, but the criticism isn’t an opinion of mine, it’s TAS itself which clearly expressed it). Even if that was inked down in a key sentence, nobody cared much.
The leaks always respond to some political interests – it’s not just the stagiaire selling the story to the press – and nobody is really keen on going against such interests which usually belong to some powerful party within the sport or beyond.
And that’s why, as I said below a different post, what I’m afraid of is that we’re on the verge of another power struggle, usual methods included.
And that would be the worst for cycling.
Froome was the top-of-the-homepage news for the web versions of El País, Die Zeit and Repubblica, besides Le Monde and The Guardian (and I didn’t check many more)… pretty much no sporting feat ever is.

Larrick December 15, 2017 at 9:43 am

I think if you look at it from the perspective of general jurisprudence, you break it into 3 parts. The investigation, then possible charges, then the trial. In Froome’s case, we are still at the investigation stage. TMart wouldn’t be happy if an investigation that went nowhere was common knowledge. Not many of us would…

Once you’ve been charged then it gets difficult. Should a ‘trial’ be held in camera for an athlete? I lean towards that being ok to make public on the basis that at the point, if the federation is doing its jobs correctly and so are the labs, it should end up with a guilty verdict in the vast majority of cases anyway.

Joe K. December 14, 2017 at 8:00 am

Wow(zers)! Quite the fire(orshit)storm of opinions set off by this timely article–even the title “… Case,” has been commented upon. Seems like all the haters-of-Sky-and-Froome have been stowing away a lot of pent up frustration and anger waiting for just such an occasion to bring out their full collection of weapons from the armory. Even going after the hand that feeds us, namely, Mr. Inrng, himself, in the process. Such blind fury, ignorance and hatred are usually fueled by unfounded facts and misconceived opinions. We certainly don’t want to see that stuff here, . . . so keep it in your pants, brother! Besides, what has Sky and Froome done to you? Who are you, like Geraint Thomas or something?

Raouligan December 14, 2017 at 9:21 am

It’s fascinating as an Asthmatic, surely if you suffer with Asthma and certainly in the UK the plan is to control symptoms via preventative medication rather than inhaled salbutamol, I think WADA even has a threshold for some of these.
Is this a case of really badly controlled Asthma?
I’m aware of the pressures of sport but surely a doctor should be stepping in here and saying this usage is too much, you’re risking your health?
Certainly this is starting to be the case with head injuries?
This isn’t a criticism of anyone I’m just trying to get a feeling for medical ethics, and control of Asthmatic symptoms in sport.

France is waiting for CF December 14, 2017 at 9:22 am

I know you’re still colonially-mentally dependent on UK, guys, but it’ time for transparency in our sport. We don’t want to cover scandals again and again. It’s the third-fourth “CASE” in SKY’s garden. Again we hear nothing since SEPT 20th(!) and suddenly , it just leaks ! If not hackers, we’d be living in a lie forever? The thing that Brailsford and his dopers are missing from the beginning is a transparency. Now it looks like UKAD, BC and even UCI is a part of the sick system of covering scandals. Some will say ‘nothing new’, but I’m personally shocked. But it’s the beginning of the end of SKY team and SKY’s doping era. It can be even a beginning of the end of UCI. Anyway France is awaiting SKY-cheaters!

DJW December 14, 2017 at 9:46 am

So we assume that Sky/Froome will employ expensive specialists who will build an argument showing that exceptional circumstances can explain the result, and that the dosage taken was reasonable. Who will then accept or otherwise the Sky/Froome explanation? UCI with WADA technical support?

The new UCI regime will not want to been seen as soft, and Sky will need to be more visibly rigourous than they have been in the TUE, Jiffy-bag and testerone patch cases. Where now for the sport’s major sponsor with, as background, BMC’s possible withdrawal in 2019 and Greenedge failing to find a replacement for Orica.

It’s the quiet season and now we wake up to LottoNL-Jumbo!

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 1:40 pm

Sky just got sold to Disney. Who knows if there will even be a Team Sky going forward?

J Evans December 14, 2017 at 10:08 am

And Froome says it’s not a positive test – it’s definitely that, even if it’s explainable and/or common.
But how many would believe that if the PK test turned out to show he’s innocent that the test wasn’t rigged using expensive scientists? Possibly only those who would believe no matter what.
And how many more questions can there be about Sky/BC – look at Britain’s Track Cycling results of the last three Olympics. Does such overwhelming dominance look completely unsuspicious?
And this test result of Froome’s just happens to come the day after he lost a chunk of time.
There’s no smoking gun when it comes to Sky/BC, but with all the things we’ve now heard, there’s an awful lot of smoke.
And how better to cover any dodgy antics than by relentlessly proclaiming yourself cleaner than clean?

Richard S December 14, 2017 at 12:17 pm

While I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist (and I am British) I’ll admit that I find it, weird shall we say, that the British Cycling track team seem to peak to levels of absolute dominance in time for every Olympics. Surely it cant just be explained by better skinsuits and detailed equipment testing! That might have explained their edge at first, and a couple of once in a lifetime freaks such as Hoy and Wiggins (whatever you think of him he’s a very impressive athlete) but they find someone new every four years and you’d think that everyone researches their skinsuits! If it was China in say long distance running then we’d all be up in arms. In fact the East African dominance of long distance running and even the Jamaican dominance of sprinting has been found to be built on pretty shaky ground, or at least not very stringent drug testing. Not to mention Russian cross country skiers.

Anonymous December 14, 2017 at 11:19 am

Why has this taken 3 months to come out? and importantly after the World’s when some are saying CF should not have been allowed to compete.

BenW December 15, 2017 at 2:37 pm

The answers to both of those are related:

The UCI and WADA were under no obligation to release the news of these tests, due to the drugs not being in the same category as other drugs like EPO and similar. The difference in category is because the Salbutamol can be used via an inhaler without a TUE, provided the level isn’t breached (which is what Froome has done).

The news was leaked to The Guardian and L’Equipe. The Guardian have published citing “public interest”; though I think it’s as much “interest to the public”, personally, seeing as Sky won’t benefit much from public money these days. (As an aside, Sean Ingle seems to be crowing a bit – “It is almost unprecedented for a cycling story to go global outside the Tour de France. However, the stunning revelation that Chris Froome failed a drugs test at the Vuelta a España in September, which was made public only due to an investigation by the Guardian and Le Monde, sent shockwaves across the world” – seeing as he wrote the initial story, how’s that for self-aggrandising bombast?)

Related to this categorisation of the drugs, there’s nothing stopping Froome racing. People are arguing that he should be suspended, but the rules don’t say he has to be. Ironically, Sky are following the rules this time.

AP December 14, 2017 at 11:49 am

This will be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back. ‘Grand Tour winner’ has become a derogatory title and to feel romance for the sport needs blinkers.
But the whole pro-cycling circus is to blame. If there are indeed different levels of seriousness in doping, any hope of having a balanced discussion on this matter was long ago vanquished by some anti-doping pundits who, by some weird symbiosis with the dopers themselves, have built careers by feeding off popular anger and thereby making cool discussion impossible.
From the amateur circuit of the ‘my numbers are better than your numbers’ idiots, to the grey areas of the pro cyclists, to the cycling mags that boost their ad clicks from doping scandals, the whole thing is unbearably ugly.

Richard S December 14, 2017 at 12:04 pm

It seems that this hinges on Froome proving that he took salbutamol through his inhaler at normal amounts (2 puffs four times a days?) and for some reason his body has reacted and thrown up an unusually high reading. I don’t personally see how he could prove this as how in a lab is he going to replicate the level of fatigue that he will have been suffering from after two back to back grand tours and a shed load of heavy training? Its a tricky one. We are left between the rock that is the best known cyclist of the era being banned for failing a drugs test or the hard place of him being seen to have been let off with it. Both end games, however much you don’t like Sky and want to see them and Froome shafted (and I’ll admit to not being a fan of Froome), are pretty terrible for cycling just at a time when its felt like that it has shaken off some of the stigma of ‘the bad old days’. My personal feelings are mixed between ‘surely Sky/Froome wouldn’t be that stupid, this must be some sort of freak event’ and the fact that its timing the day after the stage where he lost time to Nibali and the allegations flying around that it can combat accumulated fatigue look very dodgy. Overall I think I’m just sad that we are back to discussing this kind of thing.

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 1:38 pm

You would assume, not taking the view Sky are incompetent, that it was as much a surprise to them as anyone else. Of course, you could also assume they took a punt and sailed too close to the wind. Either view is plausible. But as a purposeful cheat this would be stupid on every level. I prefer to believe they are not stupid and have, at worst, taken the maximum dose and then race factors have provided the reading which could ruin Froome’s career. Replicating that situation to reproduce the result seems very difficult to achieve. Ulissi tried and couldn’t do it.

NSR December 14, 2017 at 1:52 pm

Not stupid if they get off with it and he wins the Tour of Spain. Without this leak, would they have got away with it? Without this high dose would he have collapsed on that stage after riding badly in the stage before? We don’t know. We all know what you believe, but this is not at all factual – you are obsessed with Froome so of course you believe him.

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 2:02 pm

But I haven’t said I do believe him. I’ve said my starting point is that. If evidence emerges he has been on a program of drugs for years for the purpose of cheating I’ll be the first to acknowledge it.

You ask if they would have “got away with it” without this leak. Well, no, they wouldn’t because they were informed of the AAF on September 20th. Action had been taken and they were informed to provide an explanation. Is your suggestion this would have been disappeared? That seems more a matter for the UCI than Froome in that case since it would require their collaboration.

But in talking about “getting away with it” you already reveal your own, biased position. You have assumed straightaway that it IS a cheat. Should Froome somehow demonstrate its possible his body can generate such a reading from legal doses of a legal drug you might be left with egg all over your face. It seems I’m not the only one who assumes NSR.

B Croft December 14, 2017 at 12:32 pm

Can anyone say how long he has to complete the PK tests and is it possible that the change of schedule to include the Giro was designed to get him physiologically closer to GT state to help test results?

The Inner Ring December 14, 2017 at 1:11 pm

The test will be next year it seems and riding the Giro, if it happens, will be for its own sake, it would be hard to use this as controlled test.

AnotherDavid December 14, 2017 at 12:46 pm

I have up being surprised that a pro cyclist would abuse any substance that would improve performance a long time ago. He was twice the limit that WADA allows for god’s sake how can he make excuses? He wants to get to the bottom of how this happened? He’s a pro cyclist on one of the world’s biggest professional teams, it can’t be a mystery.

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 1:34 pm

But it can. Dehydration would be one logical reason for a spike in the reading. Froome has missed feeds before, for example. And we also don’t know what his regular reading was. It may have been 200. It may have been 999. Big difference.

AP December 14, 2017 at 12:56 pm

just to add:
I wonder if the war against TUEs has contributed to this?
If he was having a severe episode but felt that it was morally impossible to seek a TUE, so he inhaled like a desperate madman instead?

I think ‘desperation’ is the only possible explanation for this. Anyway, I’ve got a life to get on with.

NSR December 14, 2017 at 1:39 pm

Cheating is another possible explanation.

AP December 14, 2017 at 3:40 pm

World’s daftest cheater if true… certain to be caught, not certain of any benefit.

Anonymous December 14, 2017 at 3:46 pm

Or maybe, like so many others in cycling have, he thought he could get away with it – many methods of cover-up could have been possible and have been used in the past.

RonDe December 14, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Good news at last at Team Sky is now no longer owned by Rupert Murdoch who has sold Sky. Its now Team Mickey Mouse.

Ecky Thump December 14, 2017 at 3:42 pm

The end game for Team Sky is coming, sooner or later.
Be it via this issue, or when the current sponsorship runs out.
Disney won’t have anything to do with cycling and its controversies, that’s for sure.
I wonder if there’ll be another British team in the WT though or is it all just too…not quite cricket, if you get my meaning?

E_Pi December 14, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Sounds like a perfect opportunity for Brailsford to rebrand his image. He’s cycling’s Berlusconi. &#x1f609

Anonymous December 14, 2017 at 1:42 pm

“My legacy wont be tainted” says Chris Froome, ha ha at least he can see the funny side of this. Didn’t that ship already sail.

Col Shivers December 14, 2017 at 1:53 pm

Would have been ludicrous for Sky/Froome to say immediately after the Vuelta that he had upped his usage due to doctor recommendation? I know it would still raise questions but shows a willingness to be completely transparent that doesn’t seem to be there now.

J Evans December 14, 2017 at 2:31 pm

Froome has a long longitudinal history of salbutamol in his urine being tested.
If his regular level is ~900 then it’s plausible that he could have accidentally doubled it, but if his regular level is ~200 then how to explain that it has increased ten-fold.
Those results are there and can be used – which doesn’t mean they will be (whereas if this information was in the public realm it could not be hidden – and there is no difference between the public knowing that Froome’s levels were >2,000 on one day and the public knowing what they usually are: there’s no difference to Froome’s medical privacy).
If it is not made public what Froome’s normal levels are then suspicion will certainly remain and if those levels are very much lower than 2,000 then it looks very bad for him. If those levels are usually near 1,000 he might be ok.
Of course, whatever his normal levels are there is still no proof of what is normal intake is, or how he’s taking it – and that’s true for all riders taking this drug. Again: transparency.

STS December 15, 2017 at 12:13 am

There are no “normal” levels of s. in the urine. It’s “normally” up and down with the peak values being multiple times higher than the lowest values. You could of course calculate an average level but it wouldn’t really mean anything. There are just too many varying factors at play influencing that level of s. in the urine making any attempts to draw any sensible conclusions from that longitudinal history useless.

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 10:57 am

Compare this peak with the other peaks.
If this one is 5x higher than any previous one that’s more than a hint.
They do longitudinal testing with the biological passport, why not with this?

CA December 14, 2017 at 3:47 pm

My last comment this morning, but another thing cycling needs is to educate it’s riders and give some PR coaching. Tony Martin, who I have a lot of respect for, made comments today that dumps a whole bunch of fuel on the fire, yet are completely ignorant of the facts of this case. He says Froome is receiving preferential treatment because he wasn’t suspended, etc. etc. Simply, Salbutamol is a specified substance and therefore you’re not suspended after AAF. Tony Martin and other elder statesmen of the peloton need to make educated comments, not ones that tell potential sponsors the sport is dirtier than it is.

Look, if Froome had EPO in his blood, BOOM, take off his wheels, and never let him ride again, but nobody has caught him with anything like that so everyone take a breathe, calm down and let’s reserve judgement until this is resolved.

BenW December 14, 2017 at 4:53 pm

I made the mistake of looking at CyclingNews comments and there was a lot of similar comments to Martin’s there too.

Frank December 14, 2017 at 7:34 pm

“Look, if Froome had EPO in his blood”

We all have EPO in our blood, it is secreted by the kidneys to stimulate red cell production. But I know what you mean…

STS December 15, 2017 at 12:21 am

Tony is definitely not one of the brightest candles on the cake (I’m not sure if that German saying translates well into English) and he would really benefit from some of your proposed coaching.

For the general public though his statement probably reads as the opinion of an “honest” and honorable guy and creating that impression might have been his motivation for that statement. That he by saying this probably created more harm even for himself is probably too complicated for him to understand.

cthulhu December 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm

I definitely have to disagree with you.
I cannot comment on Tony Martin since I don’t know him personally, but where he is right he is right. Froome recieved a preferable treatment just like Contador recieved after his “steak”.
The UCI, now under the 2nd new leadership since Verbruggen, and both claiming to be more serious and transparent in fighting doping, only released a statement after Le Monde and The Guardian were about to break the story. For Petacchi the UCI published his non-negative result: “Italian Sprinter Alessandro Petacchi will be heard by Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) anti-doping prosecutors _after the UCI has announced his ‘non-negative’ result_ from the 2007 Giro d’Italia.” ( Admittedly, one can say, that was before the 2010 rule changes. But look at Ulissis case: “UCI steps in to prevent Italian Diego Ulissi from racing after he tested positive for Salbutamol at the Giro d’Italia in May”(
Two cases of the same offence as Froome, booth treated cery differently by the UCI.

Steve December 14, 2017 at 4:17 pm

I’ve just started reading that Thomas Dekker book. It starts with blood bags in a hotel room. I assume it descends into the horror of using a kids asthma puffer in time.

plurien December 14, 2017 at 4:43 pm

The timing of this revelation on Froome’s positive is no accident. The thinking might go something like this;-
Murdoch used Team Sky to build the Sky/BSB brand across Europe. Although the team was not so popular it was successful and had its own style – Bringing an obvious parallel with the media brand in countries where cycling is one of the few sports to rival football for coverage and reach. The investment was worth while but the returns soon began to diminish and may have simply become a liability with considerable revenue costs.
Other Murdoch interests worldwide continued to grow but new interests are soon able to use internet backbone for distribution which puts them (Netflix, Apple etc) in a dominant position over 2nd generation media companies that had to build their own distribution for growth (satellite and cable).
Murdoch cannot leverage against his eclipsed interests like he could back in the day when he staked the ranch on Sky’s future. His prospects for growth are limited and diminishing in some areas of the business that are not in his preferred field of news media. Plus he’s getting old and the family has been feuding….
A suitable buyer is found for the media interests that Murdoch wants to sell. The price is good, but there is no value attaching for them to the property known as Team Sky in that sale: It cannot be sold ‘as is’ because the Name is so entangled with the media assets being acquired by another company.
Given the asset cannot be liquidated through a sale, its assets have to be gutted because that’s what tycoons do with assets that can’t be turned into cash. …they didn’t get rich by giving it away…blah blah.

Murdoch can’t sell Team Sky and nobody else shall have the value of it. – Especially not now the story of another of its principal athletes has got out through media in which Murdoch has absolutely no interest. There has been mention of somebody being thrown under the bus. It seems that body wasn’t enough to stop it running over more and you have to hope there will be some athletes who can walk away from the scene of this ‘accident’.

The Inner Ring December 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm

What’s your view on the moon landings, real or faked? 😉

ZigaK December 14, 2017 at 4:58 pm

It’s all been orchestrated by gabriele to prove Nibali is the greatest of this generation.
Tongue in cheek off course.

STS December 15, 2017 at 12:27 am

hahaha ! (@ZigaK) Thanks for making me laugh!

STS December 15, 2017 at 12:32 am

So good, can’t stop giggling about it. What a great idea to come up with!

@INRNG can we please have emoticons here which roll all over the ground while laughing their ass off.

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 12:57 am

Well, truth is that I’m afraid that under this new course of action Nibali won’t be spared at all, either; yet, things as they are, he could end his career as the greatest clean GT champion of his generation (and the two or three of generations before… also come in as a bonus).
Not that I’m particularly convinced that he’s clean, but he might well use the “never tested positive” line – oh well, maybe he’d rather not. That quote doesn’t bring along much luck.
We’ll see if Froome also enters the Contador club of “variable palmarés” or what…

AP December 15, 2017 at 1:08 am

He was expelled from a Tour.

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 8:38 pm

Are you maybe speaking of the “Vuelta (2015)”, given that it’s the only GT ever he didn’t finish? (I guess you might be calling that “Tour of Spain” or even “Tour of the Spaniards” if you’re the @UKCyclingExpert sort of guy ^__^)
Should I also suppose that you don’t know what “clean” means in cycling?

AP December 15, 2017 at 9:18 pm

@gabriel I like Nibali (he’s a great cyclist) but I do not like your rude insinuations.

As it happens I’m not an expert in cycling and the more I see of your sport the more I am proud of that fact.

But I do know a bit about Vino, Astana and hitching lifts when cyclists assume nobody is watching. Cheating is not only pharmaceutical.

There are too many egos in your sport. Have a nice weekend.

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 9:35 pm

You entered a thread of discussion whose sarcastic tone had already been set by the messages above mine (just have a look to them). I like the style and jumped in. If you want to have your say in this specific section of the whole debate, which is legitimate, I’d dare to say that you can expect an answer along those same lines.

And, no, taking a car lift isn’t comparable to (supposed) doping. Just as illegal feeding isn’t comparable to doping, either, or Quintana would have already won a Tour (de France).

Again, note that I’m not *really* assuming that any pro athletes should be necessarily considered as clean. Not at all.
But it just makes little sense to speculate on the subject re:Nibali until we’ve got a positive test (AAF if you prefer) to speak about.
Which, on the contrary, is what just happened with Froome, as it happened to Contador before him. Or to Armstrong, who could go on winning seven Tours despite of that… or to Iban Mayo with at least a couple of false positives (along with some true one). And so on. There’s still a vast range of open possibilities.

Morten Reippuert December 15, 2017 at 6:16 pm

No need to orcestrate: Nibali is the gratest rider over his genrataion. No a single rider can pose a simlar palememeras for +2 decades.

plurien December 14, 2017 at 6:15 pm

Murdoch has sold out of Sky. When does Team Sky’s UCI bond have to be paid for 2018? What interest does Murdoch or the new owners have in the team’s continuation? Will either of them want to pick up the tab for the team? – Park that for now.
There will be a break clause that could come in handy now there’s a major reputational liability piled on top of all the others around ‘marginal gains’ and gaming the regulations. Team Sky presently is neither an asset and, thanks to the break clause, nor a liability.
In media terms the team entity and the media asset are too intertwined. That was an advantage when Sky was building the brand, especially in Italy, but those days were done; even before the sale. Now Sky’s been sold and Murdoch has managed to do that without any Team Sky liability being piled on the new owner. (This way he got a better price, or had to give no guarantee about Team Sky).

As for the moon landings – Well you can ask the News of the World about that, and while you’re on you can ask them about Murdoch’s view of those who’ve sinned and then sinned against him.

STS December 15, 2017 at 12:27 am

I don’t think his thoughts are too far-fetched. It would not explain the AAF itself but it would explain the leak.

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 12:58 am

The fact that men never landed on the moon, you mean?

L'autre Dave December 14, 2017 at 4:55 pm

The hubris of Chris Froome is quite something, “I broke no rules”.

He should google Silken Laumann, she didn’t either, just followed team doctors advice, sort of.

shadow December 14, 2017 at 6:35 pm

Once again, thank you Inrng for you balance and clarity.

gabriele December 14, 2017 at 6:36 pm

I couldn’t keep the pace with all the comments, so I beg your pardon for not reading everything.
Just one thing…
*Please* let’s stop believing the dehydration thing.
The whole “experiment” story and so on.
When Froome was tested he (and Contador) had just produced one of the *most impressive performance ever*.
Dehydration at the percentages tested in those salbutamol experiments implies relevant impairing in exercise performance, even in short high-intensity efforts, as well as in endurance exercise. There’s quite a lot of scientific literature on the subject.
And that final effort wasn’t a long climb, which could produce dehydration in itself: it lasted 5’10”.
If they ever accepted Froome to enter a PK test under conditions of dehydration… well, it wouldn’t make cycling much more credible anyway.

CM December 15, 2017 at 11:54 am

Yes, a heck of a lot of comment. But I think the point being made is not about dehydration; it is about the essential uselessness of a PK test to prove Froome’s point. And in that regard, it is really a sop to the system. Also, as I understand it, although the drug is on WADA’s list, it is at dosages as a performance enhancing muscle builder and weight reducer; that is a training/race-preparation misuse thing isn’t it? something surely not for what Froome was being tested as a routine on Stage18 of the race. And whereas both Contador and Froome were beyond accepted limits the interesting comparison is that Froome is excessively over a limit, Contador was 40 times below a limit and not even caught by the testing range at all. (In truth, it seems they were out to get him come what may.)
Really the excessiveness of Froome’s positive, its time and place, its isolation in a large series of testing as long-time race leader in consecutive Tours; the certainty of discovery of such huge dosage in an expected, scheduled testing procedure minutes away; his and Sky’s post-Wiggins sensitivity -makes no sense.

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 8:47 pm

If it makes no sense, but it happens, we’re forced to find a way it makes sense. And there are several ones, indeed. But we’d go deep into the speculation field and it’s not so proper of this blog and its commentaries.

However, abusing salbutamol may also have interesting performance effects on the spot, besides the ones you listed above. Avoiding muscular catabolism in a three week race or in case of having bonked, available acid fats, stimulant effects…
No idea if that’s what Froome was at, little academic literature and only sport scientists know what they’re actually doing, mine it’s just a general statement about this drug based on what I’ve read or I’ve been told, not about Froome’s specific case.

Irungo txuletak December 14, 2017 at 11:39 pm

I don’t want to defend potential cheaters or the use of unhealthy products, but here i don’t really understand the case:
– the result might be incidental as showed by some study.
– what are the benefits of taking this kind of quantity of the product?

The thresholds set in the test do not look adequate.
And as the result might always be put in doubt, the ban associated is reduced.

Frankly all that does not look too serious. Not that I want to defend Froome, but I think the evidence is a bit scarce to put a professional carreer at risk.

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 12:46 am

The result isn’t probably incidental. Why?
I think some French newspaper reported that 45% of pro cyclists or so suffer from asthma. *Lots* of professional cyclists use very often salbutamol and undergo lots of tests (a real life sample which is more effective than the study’s): well, we don’t know if many others were acquitted without the information being leaked – in that case, Froome will go ahead on the same path.
Froome himself used the product quite a lot and, as they often loved to remember us, he was also tested quite a lot, which suggests that his physiology isn’t that prone to lead to this sort of results.
Didn’t he ever check? Didn’t the Sky experts ever read the conclusions of the above-reported study, in case Froome was constantly walking the thin line?

The second question is really not relevant, as your nickname should remember to everyone. However, the thresholds have apparently been established in reference to anabolic effects. The stimulant effect comes in for free at a lower threshold. The metabolic effect hasn’t been studied under an antidoping POV, but it looks relevant.

A couple of MDs who expressed their opinion on the subject commented that the thresholds are way superior to what guidelines (something that they happily disregard at Sky) suggest as useful to treat asthma.

What probably happens systematically (not only at Sky) is that some athletes and teams are taking advantage of their health troubles and of the high dose whose assumption is indeed allowed to go well beyond the treatment of asthma, *maybe* even using methods which are actually forbidden, which would make the high results detected more plausible than many, many, many puffs. But we can’t know…
WADA is actually working on a test to differentiate the puffs from the tablets, which makes me think that they know there’s an underlying problem within pro sport on this specific subject.
The test is allegedly ready and compliant with WADA requirement, but it’s still not in use as long as I know.

irungo txuletak December 15, 2017 at 1:30 pm

Thanks for your explanation.
I agree with your last paragraph – the “probably” included. The case is that we don’t really know even if there are weird coincidences. Who was the last Tour winner that has no asthma or allergies?

However I am still wondering how beneficial these intakes really are. I can’t believe it transform drastically performances, doesn’t it?

E_Pi December 15, 2017 at 12:17 am

Looking forward to the post on Disney’s takeover of Fox and its implications… I wonder if cycling will now once again begin to slowly recede from Anglo-Saxon consciousness and return to its roots as a mostly continental affair (for better or for worse).

ave December 15, 2017 at 12:23 am

Just like armstrong, I can’t wait for his “rein” to end.
Ill people taking drugs to beat healthy athletes is not good.

denominator December 15, 2017 at 1:46 am

A friend of mine proposed that besides polka-dot and young rider, there should be also “asthmatic jersey”.
He was just kidding, but it illustrates the risk that years of pcture polishing in the post-Armstrong era could be puffed away. I think that also the quick end to the Sagan TdF DSQ case has to do with the fact, that UCI didn’t want to have open cases with its two most prolific riders.

txzen December 15, 2017 at 2:26 am

Another perspective on the science.

Here’s a WADA study in which 10 asthmatics and 10 normal people were allowed to inhale 400ug ever second hour for a total of 4 times (total dose of 1600 ug). Urine collected at 0-4 hr, 4-8h and 8-12 h.

‘No samples exceeded the WADA threshold of 1000 ng/ml’. No differences in asthmatics or healthy subjects, though high variability was seen.

But the question remains, exactly how much did Froome take and for how long?

Tovarishch December 15, 2017 at 11:57 am

Someone should teach the experimenters some basic statistics.

Johnny Rocco December 15, 2017 at 4:20 am

I tell ya what, I’ve got a proposition for you, ride your bike, you can have the salbutamol.
Can I have the salbutamol first ? no, the ride, then the salbutamol.
without any accompaniment? now look, do you want the salbutamol or don’t ya ?
alright, my skin suits were gorgeous, always very sheer, very decollete.
i took hardly any drugs, just some salbutamol, that’s all.

Anon-RRubaix December 15, 2017 at 7:05 am

As an asthmatic who regularly uses salbutamol metered dose inhalers I know it’s pretty easy to contaminate your hands with the aerosol. I wonder if you then grab your man-junk out of your bibs if it’s possible to contaminate your pee-pee with the aerosol on your hands thus giving an erroneously high urine concentration of the drug.

(if you use this defence SDB I want credit – thank-you.)

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 11:11 am

You should immediately apply for a job at Sky.

Sir David of Shardlow December 15, 2017 at 4:41 pm

Call me

Larrick December 15, 2017 at 10:00 am

After a good 10 mins thought, Andrew on PdC has reminded me of something many would have read about last year and a possible explanation to what has happened in Froome’s case.

At a symposium in Qatar looking at the effects of heat on athletes (World Cup anyone?), a Sky doctor, Roger Palfreeman, was quoted by El Pais via sources at the get together, that Froome could cut 47 secs off his Alpe d’Huez time by what is known as ‘Functional Dehydration’. The idea being that the weight loss has a greater advantage than the power loss. If Froome was doing this then in a dehydrated state, it would be possible to fail the urine test but have been under the legal limit.

Sky pushing the boundaries of what’s possible and getting an unintended consequence. If you don’t believe they’re dopers but that marginal gains are about more than pillows, this could be the answer.

Ecky Thump December 15, 2017 at 10:55 am

Garrick, thank heavens for some sane input to this matter.
Thanks for some very interesting reading.

Ecky Thump December 15, 2017 at 10:59 am

*Larrick* sorry, you’re not a theatre, though there are plenty of posts worthy of pantomime (oh yes you are, oh no you’re not) performance!

Larrick December 15, 2017 at 12:33 pm

Is that why people call me Madam Twanky? 😊

AP December 15, 2017 at 11:04 am

If this is what happened, crossing the legal threshold must be a frequent occurrence at Sky… probably explains Froome’s “hey it’s all cool” demeanour. All surely unlikely though.

But Jesus, when did turning pedals become so effing complicated.

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 11:19 am

Other team doctors said it was nonsense, but it’s no more implausible than some theories.
The most plausible theory is that he took a pill because he was feeling terrible the previous day and he hoped to get away with it because he knew that there were many salbutamol cases where people get away with being over the limit (maybe even himself previously).
That seems more likely than him taking a huge number of puffs on his inhaler.

The idea that there is no evidence of this being a PED has been shot down by the sheer volume of research you can find online – as gabriele and others have noted. It’s not definitely a PED, but in no way can anyone say it’s definitely not a PED.

Him taking this to aid performance is a lot more likely than him dehydrating himself beyond normal, healthy limits in order to excel on Stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta, which had three category 3 climbs and one category 2 climb. The finish was a 3.2 kilometre-long climb at 6.4%.

Larrick December 15, 2017 at 12:55 pm

As far as it being a PED, the ‘evidence’ is at best inconclusive. You can find people saying it isn’t and those saying it is. Some of those I’ve read that say it is also point out it is minimal and for a short period of time.

This is one of those instances where if your starting point is ‘Froome dopes’ you can follow all the ‘evidence’ you want and you’ll end up in a completely different place to those whose starting position is ‘Froome is clean’ and also follow the ‘evidence’.

In my mind the biggest question mark on it being a case of popping a pill to act faster/better is that a) Even if you believe it is an enhancer, it’s no Superdrug at that level and b) they know he will be tested and they must know there’s a chance with the inconsistency of the urine test matching the dosage, that it will flag over the limit.

Usually the simplest answer is the correct one. In this case, nothing seems that simple.

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 1:10 pm

I said the evidence was inconclusive.
As for the simplest answer, what is that?
A weird physiological anomaly that took him twice the already high limit?
Taking – at a bare minimum – twice as many puffs as he can get away with?
Popping a pill that his experts think can help? And that they might think can help him for the rest of the race? (Chances are, the likes of Kerrison know far more about this sort of thing than almost anyone else.)
Severely dehydrating himself for a stage that is not very difficult? (Bearing in mind that he struggled in the stage before this.)
I don’t think there is a simple answer and none of these look more likely than any of the others (barring the dehydration, which to me seems very unlikely).
Do you have a simple answer?

Larrick December 15, 2017 at 1:46 pm

Well as I said that “In this case, nothing seems that simple.”, the answer should be obvious.

I’m not sure why you write “a weird physiological anomaly” as the tests Inrng refers to show that it’s very plausible. We also have no idea out of the approximately 1000 of AAFs that result in no further action that WADA publish for a year, how many are because a Salbutamol test was found to be inaccurate. There maybe dozens. Add to that that dehydration is the obvious reason for a drug in a urine test to be showing at a high level, it would seem the most likely answer to me but not one I’d necessarily bet on as it might be difficult to prove.

I also wonder why you, as someone who doesn’t have a high opinion of the morals of Sky, doesn’t think that it’s likely that they’d be trying to use this Functional Hydration technique which I believe has been around for more than a decade? It seems right up their alley.

Larrick December 15, 2017 at 1:54 pm

Functional Dehydration that should have been.

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 2:42 pm

Because other doctors derided Sky’s claims as a ‘marketing ploy’. And, perhaps even more so, because if Sky did have some technique they were using, the last thing they would do is tell their competitors.
Also, why would they use it on that relatively easy stage and not, seemingly (going by the test results being at most half of this one), on tougher stages?
I wouldn’t say ‘that dehydration is the obvious reason for a drug in a urine test to be showing at a high level’ – I’d say taking too much of said drug is the most obvious reason. But I don’t claim to know.

CA December 15, 2017 at 3:00 pm

Good job paying attention, I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s either a) what they do on a regular basis or b) what Sky wants general fans/others in the industry to think they are doing. It could be either one, but if it is a), that is a plausible explanation, but you’d also think they could replicate it in a test. Even in the offseason Froome’s training is intense enough to recreate Functional Dehydration.

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 3:46 pm

If they do that on a regular basis, why was this result at least double his norm?
And why would they do it so much more on a relatively easy stage?
Or maybe it’s dehydration that explains why he was so much better on this day than he was on the day before.

CA December 15, 2017 at 6:24 pm

We have no idea how many of these AAF cases there are every year because if they result in no suspension THEY ARE NEVER PUBLISHED… Don’t forget, the only reason why we heard about this is because of a breach of confidentiality!!!!

Honestly, Froome and Sky’s behaviour suggests this AAF is a NORMAL and that it happens on a relatively regular basis, so he went ahead and stayed on his normal plan. That’s also why he probably never thought to get a lawyer until now.

Someone above posted that there were 42 cases with zero action taken in 2015. 42! We have no idea which athletes it was, but most athletes with the means to explain analytical findings are probably well organised, and therefore very likely on organised teams. I would not be surprised if a fair few of those 42 were guys in the Pro Tour. It could have been Froome, it could have been any one of his Sky teammates. The point is, we don’t normally know about it because human beings have very complicated physiology.

I’m guilty of responding way too much to nonsensical posts!

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 7:18 pm

No, you’re guilty of not understanding the post you have responded to.

I’ll clarify each of the points I made:

“If they do that on a regular basis, why was this result at least double his norm?”
If Sky/Froome use ‘Functional Dehydration’ (which is what Larrick was talking about) on ‘a regular basis’ (as you said), why was this result double the permitted dose and none of his other results this season were? (I’m assuming that there aren’t other positive results as we’d surely have heard about those.)

“And why would they do it so much more on a relatively easy stage?”
Why would Sky/Froome use ‘Functional Dehydration’ more on a relatively easy stage than on other stages in the Vuelta? If FD is the reason for this result, they must have used it much more than on other days. Why would they do this on a relatively easy stage and not a stage with much bigger climbs?

I won’t respond to what you’ve said as it wasn’t a reply to what I actually wrote.

CA December 15, 2017 at 7:37 pm

“And why would they do it so much more on a relatively easy stage?”
Look, the reason why he did this on an easy stage is apparently his asthmatic symptoms were that much greater on that stage… regardless of the type of stage. Don’t forget, at a GT, an “easy” day is still really hard, even for pro racers… armchair fans tend to forget that. If Froome had really bad asthma symptoms that day, then a downhill stage would still be hard. If Froome has really bad asthmatic symptoms on an easy stage, then the stage is NOT easy… You see strong riders get dropped ALL the time because “easy” stages with multiple cat-3 climbs are still brutal! haha… you think they can just hop on their bike and average 40kph for 6 hours over cat-3 mountains like I ride to the corner store for milk… hahaha… look, this sport is brutal. No one understands what these guys and girls go through unless they actually do it.

As Inrng’s study points out, some athletes were found to have significantly higher levels of salbutamol than they actually took. So as with the athletes in the study, Froome is saying he took a legal amount (which was more than his usual, but still legal), but this legal amount actually resulted in higher levels of salbutamol than he actually took. I’m not a scientist so I have no idea if it’s possible.

“If they do that on a regular basis, why was this result at least double his norm?” –> on a regular basis might be every couple months when he has really bad symptoms, but the dosage is double his normal daily dose. We have no idea and are merely debating generalities. Wait until they resolve this.

j December 15, 2017 at 8:23 pm

I don’t share your faith in ‘they’.

gabriele December 15, 2017 at 9:20 pm

Well found, but it makes little sense. Or, changing a little the Italian phrase, “ben trovato, ma non è vero”.

Not only, as J Evans reported, El País did their homework presenting Palfreeman’s declarations with other expert opinions which reduced quite much the theory’s overall credibility (several physiologist had already made serious experiments on the subject); not only those other expert opinions are supported by scientific studies while Palfreeman’s isn’t (for now); and not only the latter has got good reasons to declare something which isn’t exactly the truth, unlike the rest…

…Not only that and that and that, but we’re also speaking of about 1″ every minute of climbing, in the best case, that is, in the *ideal* case presented by Palfreeman’s.

Dr. Santalla notes that with a 2% dehydration, which is casually the lower set tested in the famous “experiment”, performance loss is about 10%; whereas Palfreeman’s supposed improvement in W/kg is about 3% and his suggestion about Alpe d’Huez imply an improvement in time of 2%.
Is that 7-8% difference against several scientific studies (and the “-10% ones” are the more optimistic among them) all due to ‘nocebo’ effect?

Even more important, would you risk to have your rider racing dehydrated to gain, in the best case, some 5-6″ at most (no time bonuses avialble, either)? No 40 minutes climb to take advantage of, just a 5′ final wall. On which, among other things, pure power happens to count more than power to weight when compared with Alpe d’Huez.

As I’d say in Italian, “non me la bevo”.

k23435 December 15, 2017 at 2:15 pm

What caught my eye in the press release of Sky was that they stressed that CF followed the medical advise: “… I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my Salbutamol dosage…” and
“I have the utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms”

What if the medical staff made an error of grave consequences, unintentional or not?

CA December 15, 2017 at 3:03 pm

CF is ultimately responsible for what goes in his body, so he’d pay the price, even though it will be ruled he was not intentionally trying to dope. The doctor may be fired OR Sky will have to adjust their science.

Cycling Craze December 15, 2017 at 3:26 pm

Froome knew he had to prove innocence since September 20.
Why wait almost 90 days to hire a doping attorney? Finally realizes he needs PR damage control? Best thing for Froome to do now is shut up and refer all dope questions to his doping attorney.
Did the UCI tell him to expect the AAF to quietly disappear?

J Evans December 15, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Does this suggest that up until now he didn’t think he would be needing one?
Or did he just think that if he hired one earlier the story might be more likely to come out? Although would that not be a breach of lawyer-client ethics (I’ve no idea)?

Nick December 15, 2017 at 6:34 pm

Do we know that he waited until now to instruct a lawyer? If Froome instructed lawyers as soon as he found out about the positive, we wouldn’t necessarily know, as neither he nor the lawyer would have publicised it at the time.

(@J Evans – yes, it would be a massive breach of any lawyer’s duty of client confidentiality for them to brief that they had been instructed on a confidential matter.)

CA December 15, 2017 at 7:02 pm

For the record, this entire newstory is a breach of confidentiality. Even though the UCI does not have the same level of priviledge, there are still damages by leaking this. What garbage, the UCI needs to be torn down.

Andrew December 15, 2017 at 4:28 pm

500? Do I hear 500? Who will give me the 500th comment on this post?

Anonymous December 16, 2017 at 1:31 am

Laughable really, seems some folks like nothing better than a doper story!! Probably avid twitters too. Sad!

Reggie Spelman December 15, 2017 at 6:12 pm

The urine level for Salbutamol was actually based on the maximum level expected when salbutamol is taken by inhalation at prescribed doses so as to identify those might be taking high doses by injection or oraly where it does have anabolic effect. This was being done by weight lifters for instance. No dose of inhaled salbutamol can have any performance enhancing benefits indeed they would have detrimental benefits.
It has been shown that when taken by inhalation at prescribed doses a sportsperson whose urine is concentrated due to dehydration competing in hot conditons will produce urine levels that could be twice what they would be in a normally concentrated sample. We need to know Froome’s urinary specific gravity ,
Potassium etc before judging

Bob December 15, 2017 at 7:27 pm

I have an inside source on this. Reliable.
It was in fact the fault of the Bus driver and an attractive young woman….
It seems that on the morning of the fateful Vuelta stage, while in transit to the start area in the SKY team bus, the team was fueling up some last minute carbs in the form of pasta, when an attractive young woman in a dark coloured Seat Ibiza hurtled out of a side street and caused the bus driver to swerve sharply and quite violently to the left in order to avoid hitting her.
He slid his window open ( the Bus has a sliding drivers window you know, not wind-down ) and yelled ” YOU BLITHERING IDIOT! ” ( most definitely not “SLITHERING REPTILE” ) and raised both his hands.
What you may not know is that on the Team Sky Bus, the drugs, I mean MEDICINES -forgive me- are stored readily accessible on an overhead shelf on the left side of the Bus, above the dining table.
This well excecuted evasive move by the driver of the Bus did thankfully avoid an accident, but also caused a small bottle of pills marked “Salbutamol” to tip and deliver its contents suddenly onto Chris Froomes Tagliatelli con Tomate, wholely unobserved by the team or Chris, who were pre-occupied with the fracas outside. The passenger of the Seat ( a young French guy visiting his girlfriend ) aimed a bras d’honneur at the bus driver whilst posting a picture of the SKY bus on facebook with his other hand, and they sped off. Everyone carried on eating, and the Bus driver swung back out into the traffic.
So the events of the day had been already set in motion. The bomb was ticking, Froome’s goose was as al dente as his Tagliatelli, and despite no-one being actually being thrown UNDER the bus, it was the BUS that threw the team under so to speak. Could have happened to anyone,

E_Pi December 15, 2017 at 7:40 pm

I see that people who are at twice the legal alcohol limit are starting to arrive.

Reggie Spelman December 15, 2017 at 11:29 pm

Not sure what E_PI is suggesting. In 2003 an Independent Judicial Tribunal examined reports from a number of medical and scientific experts on the same issue relating to an appeal by a rugby player. Those experts conceded that the level of 1644 ng/ml was high, but contended that it could be explained by using retrograde drug analysis that the extreme weather/ temperature conditions on the day of the match, and in particular the extreme dehydration and water loss suffered by the player both during and after the match.

At the seven-hour appeal hearing, which took place at European Rugby Cup (ERC’s) offices on 1 September 2003, the independent Appeal Tribunal heard testimony from the player and the team doctor, each of whom insisted that the player had only taken 8 puffs of Salbutamol, a normal therapeutic dose. . They also heard testimony from the player’s medical experts.

Having heard that evidence, tested by ERC on cross-examination, the independent Appeal Tribunal concluded that, on the basis of the evidence put forward by the player it was satisfied that he had limited himself to an appropriate therapeutic dose of Salbutamol and that the extraordinary level of Salbutamol found in his urine sample was explained by the extreme conditions at that match, including in particular his very dehydrated state as confirmed by specific gravity and electolyte levels in the urine samples .
As I said earlier it has been accepted that if urine samples show raised salbutamol levels and the same samples show the sportsperson was dehydrated at the time retrograde calculations can confirm the dosage taken at any time.
E_Pi should also know that retrograde analysis works both ways. In some jurisdictions courts will accept retrograde alcahol analysis when there is a delay taking a drink drivers alcahol level whose alcahol level is normal to show what it actually was when known to have been driving.

E_Pi December 16, 2017 at 1:36 am

It was a joke about how some of the Friday night comments seemed to be written by people who were a bit tipsy, that’s all! Things get lost in translation on forums sometimes, sorry about that.

STS December 16, 2017 at 11:52 am

Great additional information, Reggie. Thank you !

gabriele December 16, 2017 at 12:02 pm

“the level of 1644 ng/ml was high, but contended that it could be explained by using retrograde drug analysis that the extreme weather/ temperature conditions on the day of the match, and in particular the extreme dehydration and water loss suffered by the player both during and after the match”.

…1644 was high.
*Extreme* weather / temperature conditions.
*Extreme dehydration*…

And that should be useful for Froome?… Yeah, yeah.
As I said (way) above, his only hope is to take advantage once again of his chameleonic’s skills, with the precious little help of sport science, and use the time he’s got to alter his metabolism and conditions for the PK test. The testers will decide up to what point they want to be fooled.

Eskerrik Asko December 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

Any idea of why the National Anti-Doping Association was satisfied with this retrograde analysis and did not demand a controlled pharmacological test (such as is required by CAS in the Froome case and as has been historically required in similar cases) and/or appeal to CAS?

Is this peculiar to rugby, to the NADA in question – or simply how things were a good 14 years ago (but they have become much stricter since then)?

Nick December 18, 2017 at 1:42 am

It may have been just how things were 14 years ago. The original decision (by a multi-national body, because it was a pan-European competition) was a 2 year ban. This was then argued down to 3 months at an appeal tribunal of the same body, on the basis described, although the player was also fined, and refused his costs of the appeal. The appeal body also complained about the confusing nature of the rules on salbutamol, so they may not have had the requirements for a controlled test. They wen on to describe the player as having been grossly negligent in failing to mention Ventolin on his anti-doping form, which would put him in the 16-24 months ban range today, but who knows how many blows he’d taken to the head when he filled that out.

Anonymous December 16, 2017 at 10:04 am

The asthma kids used to sit on the benches, now their winning tours ffs.

Mg December 20, 2017 at 11:24 am

I’ve used Salbutamol all my life, it does nowt

Reggie Spelman December 17, 2017 at 1:56 pm

The fact that kids with asthma or pure exercise induced asthma (2 seperarte conditions) no longer sit on the bench and can participate in sport as a result of asthma treatment should be welcomed by all.
It is well documented in peer reviewed journals that inhaled salbutamol at any dose is not performance enhancing. At excessive doses it would actually be detrimental due to side effects such as muscle tremor and increased heart rate. Taken in the long term by injection or tablet salbutamol can have a performance enhancing anabolic effect, however as inhaled,injected and oral salbutamol produce different urine metabolites it is possible to prove which an athlete has taken using liquid chromatography. In the case of the rugby I referred to in a earlier his urine sample was sent to an IOC laboratory where it was confirmed that the salbutamol in his urine was only taken by the inhaled route. There should be no stigma nor suspicion,implied or otherwise, of asthmatic kids who play sport. We should applaud the fact they no longer,”sit on the benches”

J Evans December 18, 2017 at 5:03 pm

“Salbutamol metabolism how to differentiate oral vs. inhaled
administrations: Looking outside the box”
X. de la Torre, F. Botrè, A. Cadwallader, F. Donati (Federazione Medico
Sportiva Italiana (FMSI), Roma, Italy)

This is on WADA’s site and suggests that there is no definitive way of differentiating between oral and inhaled salbutamol – which isn’t surprising when a lot of inhaled salbutamol could be swallowed.

Reggie Spelman December 20, 2017 at 8:02 pm

The article referred to by J Evans was in fact a project overview written by Xavier de la Torre which explains the methodology to discriminate between oral and inhaled salbutamol. Torre explains that “oral” salbutamol is metabolized (first pass liver metabolism) and that this conjugated sulphate metabolite can be detected in the urine using the methods described. If taken by tablet all the salbutamol in the urine will show as this metabolite. If inhaled the amount swallowed will appear as the same metabolite however as is mentioned in the article there is only “a partial oral administration during inhalation administration where a fraction of the dose is swallowed” not “when a lot of inhaled salbutamol could be swallowed” as stated by J Evans. Most inhaled salbutamol is, not surprisingly, deposited in the lung where it is not is not metabolized and enters the systemic circulation and subsequently the urine unchanged as the parent compound.

I would suggest reading: Analytical methodology for enantiomers of salbutamol in human urine for application in doping control. Rosa Bergés, Jordi Segura, Xavier de la Torre, Rosa Ventura.
(Xavier de La Torre was lead author in the article referenced by J Evans)

Also: Discrimination of prohibited oral use of salbutamol from authorized inhaled asthma treatment . Clinical Chemistry 46:9 1365-1375 (2000).

For those who remain unconvinced that inhaled salbutamol is not performance enhancing I suggest the following:

Inhaled salbutamol does not affect athletic performance in asthmatic and non-asthmatic cyclist. Published in the British Journal of sports medicine.

Effects of inhaled salbutamol in exercising non-asthmatic athletes. Published in the British Medical Journal

In summary: It is possible to differentiate between salbutamol taken by inhalation and tablet form. Salbutamol by inhalation is not performance enhancing at higher than prescribed doses can be detrimental to performance regardless as to whether one is asthmatic or not.

gabriele December 21, 2017 at 12:00 am

It is technically possible to differentiate, but it’s not currently being done in this and several other cases, whatever the reason.
The main implicit concern in Froome’s case is indeed that he might not have limited himself to inhalation, even if, legal procedure as it is, this won’t be the matter which will be discussed.

I think that most commenters aren’t very much worried by the effect of inhaled salbutamol because they figure that the easiest way to reach that quantity of metabolites is taking the substance someway else.
The scenario in which such a concentration is achieved by puffs is quite far from being likely (it’s highly implausible that he was dehydrated; it’s hard to believe that it was a question of peculiar metabolism, since he’s long been a frequent user and apparently he never passed the limit, let alone reaching the double of that value; it’s hard to believe that he went on puff after puff after puff, like, tens of times? – with a doctor recommending that! – given that the therapeutic effect happens well before and, as we see above, it even becomes detrimental or dangerous).

It’s also curious that, unlike Petacchi or Ulissi, Froome didn’t even try to provide any official version about how many times (more or less) and approximately when he would have inhaled the substance. He supposedly knows that pretty well, why isn’t he declaring it? That would foster his credibility, if it made sense, wouldn’t it?

J Evans December 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

Thanks for the info.
I’m not expert and when I said ‘This is on WADA’s site and suggests that there is no definitive way of differentiating between oral and inhaled salbutamol – which isn’t surprising when a lot of inhaled salbutamol could be swallowed’, it was based on this paragraph from the article I quoted, which seems, to me at least, to be saying those two things.

The urinary results confirmed that after inhalation the enantiomeric ratio between S(+) and R(-) of the non metabolized and of the metabolized salbutamol strongly depends on the percentage of the dose that is swallowed. The sulphotransferases (SULT’s) responsible for the conjugation of salbutamol in different tissues, and for the different excretion of S(+) and R(-) enantiomers depending on the route of administration, are polymorphic and then large differences between individuals may be expected. In some specific cases, this may be the reason for reaching elevated concentrations of salbutamol after inhaled therapeutic administrations (permitted).

Like Gabriele, I find it very hard to believe that he only took salbutamol via his inhaler.

gabriele December 21, 2017 at 12:11 pm

If you go on, they later suggest the medical and legal ways to perform a genetic test which would make it possible to establish how SULTs specifically work for the given athlete.
I don’t know if the test still needs to be perfected, although the authors defend that it’s already consistent with WADA and ISO requirements, or whether there’s some political reason against adopting yet.
What’s interesting is that antidoping authorities feel that this is a field which needs to be explored.

Maybe – but this is a mere exercise of imagination – sport authorities aren’t ready, yet, to have the test introduced without the teams being in the know that things are going to change (the latter would be the most effective antidoping strategy, but it could also be a disaster for the sport’s economy).

J Evans December 21, 2017 at 1:07 pm

True: if it’s not a PED when taken orally, why are they bothering to investigate this?

Like you, I have very little faith in the idea that there is much will to actually catch dopers.

ZigaK December 15, 2017 at 6:49 am

As was Froome, but that was different.

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