Specified Substance Shorts

A collection of Froome and Sky loose ends. First one of this week’s blog topics was going to be how Team Sky could be coming to an end. No, not for the reasons in the news, instead down to corporate activity far away on Wall Street. Disney has announced it is buying 21st Century Fox, the company which ultimately owns Sky. You might have seen the 21st Century Fox logo on the Sky kit. It seems probable the Sky brand lives on, the threat to the team comes from the Murdoch family,nif James Murdoch goes and does something else. He’s been the pro team’s biggest backer and without him the new owners may decided enough is enough… or current management think their sponsorship has had a good run, time to try something less accident-prone.

Who would replace Sky? Once upon a time we might have imagined a queue of sponsors, for example Ford who currently sponsor the team. But would any company board back linking their name to Team Sky right now given the doubts? Remember corporate marketing is very risk averse and the slightest chance of scandal or just negative headlines can scare off backers.

Zero tolerance? A more sudden exit could be because Chris Froome gets a ban at the end of this, a formal anti-doping sanction. This is conditional but were it to happen Sky would either have to enact their zero tolerance policy and sack Froome or try to pin it all on a team doctor and say “not that kind of doping” line but good luck spinning that. It’s not impossible, FDJ’s Yoann Offredo missed three tests after a Whereabouts bungle but this never brought much suspicion. Perhaps because Marc Madiot’s not declared war on sections of the cycling press while Dave Brailsford’s feud with cyclingnews and others means they’ve got a lack of friends in sections of the media.

What sanction awaits? Froome risks anything between a reprimand and a two year ban, there’s no total absolution, the minimum is a reprimand is just that, a warning but it signifies a breach of the rules. Normally banned substances incur four year bans but salbutamol is different. It is a prohibited substances but has the sub-classification of a “specified substance”, this week’s catchphrase. Here’s WADA’s definition:

8. What is a ‘specified substance’?
It should be clear that all substances on the Prohibited List are prohibited. The sub-classification of substances as “Specified” or “Non-Specified” are important only in the sanctioning process.

A “Specified Substance” is a substance which potentially allows, under defined conditions, for a greater reduction of a sanction when an athlete tests positive for that particular substance.

The purpose of the sub-classifications of “Specified” or “Non-Specified” on the Prohibited List is to recognize that it is possible for a substance to enter an athlete’s body inadvertently, and therefore allow a tribunal more flexibility when making a sanctioning decision.

“Specified” substances are not necessarily less effective doping agents than “Non-Specified” substances, nor do they relieve athletes of the strict liability rule that makes them responsible for all substances that enter their body.

This special classification means any ban is up to two years rather than four. It likely to be less given we know Froome has been using salbutamol for asthma. Note there’s no sanction for the team in case you wonder if the medics involved are on the line. If there is a ban then Froome will lose the Vuelta title and the accompanying ranking points but as it’s a specified substance – that catchphrase again – the rules say all subsequent results can stand, whether the bronze in Bergen or the Shanghai “criterium”.

What next? As for the timing of all of this Le Monde explained yesterday that this is going to drag on well into 2018. Diego Ulissi’s case from the 2014 Giro wasn’t resolved until the following January. Now Le Monde says Froome has yet to undergo the pharmokinetic testing and this won’t be happening this year meaning the evidence gathering aspect has some way to go before any hearings… and any eventual appeal too.

Tony Martin’s right to speak up but wrong on the details: in the past when any doping story erupted most riders would avoid comment so it’s refreshing to read Martin venting on a Facebook post. However he’s wrong when he claims there’s a conspiracy of silence at the UCI in handling this case. It’s all down to that sub-classification of a “specified substance” – again – so this triggers a different rule, here it is from Part 14 of the UCI regulations:

7.9.3 Provisional Suspension based on an Adverse Analytical Finding for Specified Substances, Contaminated Products, or for other Anti-Doping Rule Violations
For any potential anti-doping rule violation under these Anti-Doping Rules asserted after a review under Article 7 and not covered by Article 7.9.1 or 7.9.2, the UCI may impose a Provisional Suspension prior to analysis of the Rider’s B Sample (where applicable) or prior to a final hearing as described in Article 8.

Here the UCI may suspend a rider on the A sample or ahead of any hearing but “may” as this is conditional, whereas for the non specified substances the UCI “promptly imposes a provisional suspension”. So the only double standards here are caused by following the rulebook rather than anything more murky. We shouldn’t blast Martin over this, after all if he is confused what is the ordinary public supposed to make of this when they just hear 40 second radio report or glimpse a headline?

MPCC: some of this confusion could have been avoided if Team Sky was a member of the MPCC group of teams. Once again this self-regulatory group plays by higher standards than the rules and if a rider is notified of an A-sample they have to suspend the rider. It’s harsh on the rider but this would have prevented Tony Martin polemics and other suspicions.

Suspension: Froome may actually want to be provisionally suspended. Because if he is going to be banned for a few months then time spent during the provisional suspension counts towards the actual ban. Being provisionally suspended over the winter months means not missing any races –  like when Giovanni Visconti and Pippo Pozzanto served bans for working with Michele Ferrari – and in the event of a six month ban he’d be eligible come the Giro or Tour. Obviously the flip side is headlines of “suspended” and the association with guilt some might make. But this is not his decision, you can’t volunteer to suspend.

Known unknowns: We still don’t know how often if at all others have been invited to explain any salbutamol levels above the WADA threshold of 1,000ng/ml without being suspended but this PDF on testing stats from WADA shared by Larrick in the comments does give light into how many cases are opened and then proceed to publication and about one in four cases don’t become public because they’re explained away.

Mauro Vegni

From pink to red: this brings us to the concerns of RCS and ASO, owners of the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France. RCS ‘s Mauro Vegni must have been tickled pink to announce Chris Froome as the Giro’s star rider for 2018 but now he’ll be red-faced given his participation is now dependent on a UCI tribunal. If he shows up with the case ongoing he’ll come with more baggage than Malpensa, especially if the heading could be concluded mid-race where there’s the possibility of being ejected mid-race. This would be a farce but pro cycling is adept at these scenarios. But there’s nothing to do here, Chris Froome is innocent for now and there’s a process to follow, it’s hard to imagine RCS or ASO saying he’s persona non grata.

And finally it’d be nice to look at the Giro route or the consequences of Froome’s decision to ride the Giro and what this means for other teams but it would all get engulfed by this week’s news… normal service next week. Enough of specified substances? Here is 75 seconds of slapstick from Lotto-Soudal over on Youtube.

106 thoughts on “Specified Substance Shorts”

    • Yes, this is the first big cycling doping story of the social media era. To say, as some do, “cycling has coped before it’ll cope again” seems to misunderstand how social media may have changed fans’ relationship with the sport.

    • @ Andrew – yep, spot on, agree completely.

      I’ve had a number of friends asking me for my opinion; maybe I’m cynical but to me, this was the ‘best case’ I could envisage for Team SKY’s behaviour – that they’re pushing the limits of what is legal or have found substances that haven’t yet been banned rather than outright doping with banned substances that are hard to detect when dosing is done smartly.

      On a local level, it will be interesting to see what this does to the sport (and participation in it) in Britain itself now that the bubble has well and truly burst. 2017 should mark the top.

      I love this sport but it’s just hard to see how belief in top end racing can be restored to anyone who has been through more than one ‘renewal’ cycle.

      • “they’re pushing the limits of what is legal” – pretty much Brailsford’s policy from the off, and recently open touted by Shane Sutton … step over the line and you’re dead to them, but so long as you keep have a toenail behind the end of the line, it’s all in the game.

        “… or have found substances that haven’t yet been banned” – do you mean salbutamol in certain doses/administrative methods (implying it’s likely to be banned completely in future when everyone else in sport clocks on to its benefits) or some other substance (in which case, why bother with this salbutamol nonsense?)?

        • Some other substance. I must be precise: this is simply conjecture/one theory that I have had for some time and I haven’t thought about the interaction with salbutamol (but I would imagine it would be the aggregation of marginal gains from a number of different enhancements).

      • Whilst the 2012 effect no doubt helped catapult cycling up in terms of participation numbers in the UK, I think it’s a bit unfair to attribute that entirely to Wiggins/Froome/Team Sky’s success.

        I think a lot of it was spurred on by a more general (and continuing) social trend away from sitting in the pub/bar/nightclub or on the sofa at the weekend and towards improving physical activity and wellbeing. It’s been helped a great deal by the (slowly) improving cycling infrastructure, better attitudes towards cyclists and increasing penalisation of car use, especially in big cities.

        Sure the high profile of British professional cycling may have helped draw people towards that instead of other sports, but I remain optimistic and think UK amateur cycling numbers will continue to increase, regardless of the travails of the pro peloton.

      • Agree with Greasy Wheel..
        However, I consider that cycling is already in a down turn, nothing to do with drugs etc. Bought a new bike this year, first thing I noticed walking around the shops are that prices had gone up, or component spec had reduced for the price. Many shops are struggling to make money and there is a saturation of cafes, shops etc. A general downturn in the economic cycle of bike shops and manufacturers will be blamed on drugs cheats, sky etc..

  1. The sponsor might well desert them, but I think they’re far too hypocritical – as we’ve seen with the Wiggins case (amongst many other things) – to enact their zero tolerance policy, which has long been a joke anyway (the list of their employees who have been involved with doping is long). They’d invent any old rubbish to keep Froome – the past year has shown what they’re capable of.

    I’d like to see them go because grand tours will be more entertaining to watch without this overly dominant team and I’d prefer to see talented cyclists riding to win themselves than being used as domestiques.

    I also wouldn’t miss the hubris and preaching. (Good to get rid of the Murdochs too, but the sport has plenty of other despotic tyrants to maintain the UCI’s ethical stance.)

    Lastly, does anyone actually have faith in the process? If the pharmokinetic tests were to clear Froome – having not cleared others, such as Ulissi – would we believe that this was because of his physiology and not because of dodgy politics/money?

    • On your final point: I think most don’t, which is perhaps almost the most damaging aspect. I myself wonder if the leak has happened because some in the anti-doping apparatus have become concerned that this will become swept under the carpet.

      As Ross Tucker has pointed out, it seems like there’s a possibility here of SKY spending months trialling different combinations/conditions for these tests (to give as high a reading as possible when they actually submit their side of the case) without actually having given information on the dose taken during the day up front/ahead of time.

      • It is interesting that the leak happened a few days after Cookson called for Wiggins’ (i.e. Sky’s) “reputation to be reinstated”. This shameless shilling from a former UCI president may indeed have precipitated the leak.

      • To quote Tucker, on Twitter:

        ‘The process should be that you’re informed of your second sample exceeding the threshold, and then you have six hours to explain your actions (dosages and timings). It was a significant medical intervention. You know what you did, so say it, and let that form your defense.’


        ‘You can basically go away and test half a dozen scenarios until you find the one that fits the desired outcome (which is of course known). If there’s no time limit, or no oversight, there’s no integrity.’

        It seems to defy credulity – and credibility – that WADA don’t do this.

        Someone else asks what happened to ‘the Henao altitude ‘research paper’, which has never seen the light of day.’

        • Exactly, idiots will talk about due process and throw up scenarios such being the second being tested while a potentially entirely innocent riders is in the middle of a Grand Tour when notified, but the accused riders need for fairness should never be considered more important than the desires of Internet jurors.

          • Whose point? Tucker’s proposal that:

            ‘The process should be that you’re informed of your second sample exceeding the threshold, and then you have six hours to explain your actions (dosages and timings). It was a significant medical intervention. You know what you did, so say it, and let that form your defense.’?

            The time to respond after the second sample doesn’t particularly bother me. My concern is for the time from being notified you are under investigation to having to present your defense. I assume the purpose of waiting for the second sample is to avoid wasting resources on a defense you won’t need because the reliability of the test is insufficient.

            I want the accused to be given enough time to engage experts in appropriate areas, to have these experts analyse the findings and determine whether there are “provable” scenarios that may explain how the findings arose without the defendants having engaged in doping/doping practises, and present their case in a professional manner. Though cases dragging on and results being uncertain for any length of time is frustrating, I am content to leave it up to legal and anti-doping experts to define how long this time should be and what constraints are placed upon the accused during this time.

            I would like these findings to be presented to, and challenged by, other experts in a controlled manner. And I would like them published at the time the verdict is announced, unless there are compelling reasons why they should not be (e.g. damage to a third party or undermining of ongoing investigations).

            Tucker absolutely knows more than me about both sports science and anti-doping. I suspect he knows less about anti-doping processes and legal principles than less publicity-hungry experts in these areas.

            Maybe I will give up at this point. If the political developments of the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that people find it easier to discover their truths from behind pitchforks and torches, than from behind the scientist’s microscope and lawyer’s tomes.

          • Yes, if there’s one thing to be learned from the history of doping, it’s that the law (see the judge’s ruling to destroy the blood samples in the Puerto case, for example) and the authorities (too many to mention) always come up with the correct results. No wonder you have such faith in them.
            The latest in cycling being:
            The UCI accepted Michael Bresciani’s explanation that his mother needed Furosemide for an illness and that, apparently, they have involuntarily contaminated food or kitchen utensils – so he got a two-month ban.

          • What good reason could there be for the doping authority not immediately requiring Froome (or anyone else) to state to them how much of the drug he took?

            To not do so greatly increases the ability of someone who wanted to produce tests that backed up their erroneous claims to do precisely that.

    • If Froome is cleared, I would feel sorry for Petacchi and Ulissi (not knowing anything else about their history with doping stories), as there’s a chance they were innocent too and just didn’t have the resources to prove their high concentration could have been down to unique conditions/physiology as well.

    • Maybe someone with more pharmaceutical knowledge than me can explain otherwise, but with the right resources and people would the pharmokinetic test, which I imagine to be on a date known to the subject, be an easy target for manipulation?
      Basically, I can imagine Froome passing the test, but leaving many fans cynical

      • Can’t help on the pharma knowledge but even if you can replicate the AAF value in the PK Test, you still have to show that those conditions existed at the time. Froome couldn’t, for example, recreate extreme cold weather if it happened on a hot day or ride a trainer for 18 hours straight before giving a sample.

  2. Still say you can’t see the leak about Froome independently of the Murdoch sale of Sky to Disney. The team now has no place to go, no sponsor, no champion with money and no future, thanks in part to the adverse finding which gives the suits a neat opportunity to play their get out of jail free card. It was no coincidence this came on the day the sale to Disney was transacted: Damage limitation, too many other questions about the corporate deal and kitchen sink-ing all meant it was text book to get this news out. If the team management weren’t going to do it, someone else had to. It’s small potatoes and not worth anything any more; only a liability that can be ended.
    $66 billion

  3. Question – if you were the Chief Executive of a multi billion dollar media company, would you spend €35 million funding a cuddly kids movie that you could distribute / stream and that might double your money or on a professional cycling team that lives in a world of sh1t?

    Answer – exactly!

    • On the flip side of that they get huge exposure for what is a rounding error in their massive marketing budget, and cycling has had a dodgy reputation before and during their involvement that hasn’t bothered them so far… ‘we’ all live inside the world of cycling websites and forums where the heat on Sky feels white hot, but out there it probably generates a mild ‘well, they’re probably just keeping up with the russians’ shrug…

  4. Loving the ‘Malpensa’ zinger, way to keep your style in the face of the drudgery of doping/substance specifics!

    Not feeling too skirt for RCS, don’t forget Contador’s stripped Giro title that everyone knew would be stripped…and given eventually to Scarponi (RIP) who was having camper van convos with youknowwho…ah fuggit

  5. Some say this will drag out for a long time. I’m not so sure.

    Froome will do his tests. He’s probably already done them. They will either back him or not. If not then his lawyers will negotiate a short, non-blame ban back-dated to the B test (with a the loss of the Vuelta).

    A good lawyer could get him available for the Giro with a ban served.

    The fly in the ointment is that this has been made public. And we have a career politician as UCI president wanting make a name for himself. Can he keep the CADF independent as it should be or will he intervene?

  6. Actually, the rider can voluntarily suspend themselves:

    7.9.6 In all cases where a Rider or other Person has been notified of an anti-doping
    rule violation but a Provisional Suspension has not been imposed on him or
    her, the Rider or other Person shall be offered the opportunity to accept a
    Provisional Suspension voluntarily pending the resolution of the matter.

    What I’m unclear on is if you can un-suspend yourself voluntarily before such time that a final judgement has been rendered. My readings of the rules is leaning towards “no” if you want to get the credit for it.

    • They can but presumably that window has passed, I’m not sure you can elect not to suspend yourself and then ride some criteriums / gran fondos and possibly cut a deal with RCS… and then to suspend yourself over the winter?

  7. Please tell me why WADA and the UCI don’t have a medical staff/ Doctor for the riders during a Grand Tour? Riders could seek treatment for medical issues under the auspices of a prescribing doctor who then is part of an accountability chain. Cases like this defy medical logic. Essentially cycling is torn apart for an asthma medication that has little effect or none on performance. No other sport would allow its stars to be continually destroyed in this manner.

      • I’ve long said that the UCI should provide all medical staff – with the teams paying for it. If teams have their own doctors it leads to doping. Doctors have to be neutral and independent.

        • Ultimately it’s the only way to avoid another issues like this in a grand tour. Asthma is diagnosed and assessed by spirometry. Having a WADA and or UCI doctor doing a quick test to see if an athlete is have a asthmatic exacerbation, then treatment can be managed according. If higher doses of medication are required to manage the patient/athlete, they make the call, sign off on the case, and it should be over with. The thresholds that exist is relatively arbitrary. He di not win the Vuelta because of that high level of drug. This is not a Hct of 60 for god sake. In the context of Asthma, if indeed he was suffering from excessive bronco constriction, then the high levels of Salbutamol rol would not be a performance enhancer when the bronchial tree is constricted. This is is all very basic outpatient medicine. All the coverage has completely missed the point that this is a everyday medical problem being treat a a completely screwed up environment. Again, no other sport would allow this to happen!

          • Ah ah ah, very good point. Ask Wiggo for references. Or Froome.

            Or Cookson – he’ll explain you that all, J Evans.
            I know you don’t like conspiracy theories (we never had anyone found guilty of any “sophisticated conspiracy” in cycling, after all, had we?) – just listen what the man’s got to say:


            Now, have a look at the interview’s date. Then read the Astana doping storm chronology:

            “In September 2014, it emerged that Valentin Iglinskiy has returned a positive test for EPO 1at the Eneco Tour, he confessed to doping to the team and was immediately sacked, three weeks later Valentin’s brother, Maxim Iglinskiy was provisionally suspended by the UCI for an EPO-positive on August 1. […] Subsequently, a sample taken at the Tour de l’Avenir in August from Ilya Davidenok, a rider with the Astana Continental Team and a stagiaire with the Astana Pro Team, tested positive for anabolic steroids”.

            ^__^ Sweet dreams

          • Yes, point definitely made.
            It would be good to have independent, neutral doctors rather than privately employed team doctors, but that would have to be via a body independent of the UCI – and I’m not sure that independence would be possible.
            When it comes to cycling, I’m well aware that the authorities have colluded with doping on multiple occasions.
            When I said elsewhere that ‘Some of the excuses being bandied about are as desperate as the conspiracy theories’, what I meant was that ideas such as this result having been caused by extreme dehydration are no more likely than plurien’s idea (which I don’t think is impossible or ridiculous – this is how corporations often function) of this entire scenario having been created by the corporate entities involved, or other theories such as Cookson having been involved in a cover-up and that having now been thwarted by a change of president.
            I don’t think these are the most likely scenarios, but I wouldn’t completely rule them out.

    • It’s not a bad idea. The role of a team doctor is very varied, are they glorified nurses to treat riders after a crash? It’s when they become central to performance that alarm bells can ring.

      One of the CIRC report suggestions was a central pharmacy during a stage race so that no team brought their own medicines any products needed would be logged and presumably controlled. This hasn’t happened.

    • I’m not sure if that would have solved the issue here? Isn’t the issue that Froome says he took x puffs, which was less than the limit, but that produced a high reading. The suspicion is that he took y puffs, which is more than the limit.

      If there were independent doctors, and Froome had to puff each time in front of these doctors, who recorded the numbers, there was nothing stopping him taking more puffs on his own personal inhaler (which presumably he has available to him 24 hours as he has asthma), but for those additional puffs not to be recorded. ie Sky have admitted that the doctor cleared Froome to take more puffs within the limit, as he usually took a lot less. Independent doctors may well have done the same – wouldn’t the issue in both cases be whether Froome actually took more than the limit but not informed doctors as that was against the rules?

  8. Sky escaped real censure on the cortisone injections, jiffy-bag and testosterone patches. In this case one of the more intelligent and likeable guys in the peloton – who I wanted to trust – will probably be brought down and Sky too. Maybe replacing Brailsford after the earlier issues would have helped though it’s probably too late now…But saying that Astana are still around and with respectable riders prepared to join, though the difference might be that Astana have uncritical support while Sky have investors making a commercial decision. As for me, and having followed pro cycling since the seventies, I will continue to be fascinated by the races and tactics – even the forlorn breakaways – while always doubting.

  9. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Or as Lemond said earlier, there are no fairy tales in cycling.
    Create a new team, blow the sport apart. Take an unknown rider and turn him into one of the best in history, performing feats no one has yet replicated (e.g. seated uphill excessive cadence attacks). What are the ingredients needed to make all this seem credible to the public?
    Reading the comments on this outstanding blog it is clear to see the tactics worked very well, many have deep seated beliefs about the team/rider being whiter than white. Changing belief systems is incredibly difficult. Like the fact there is hardly any narritive on the fact the day he tested positive (so to speak) he destroyed the opposition, having been on the ropes beforehand. It is a banned substance, in terms of dosage, for a reason.
    Fairy tale stories in cycling are just that, artificial. And sadly, like Armstrong, power corrupts the mind and the lust for more fame drives humans into destroying themselves.
    Yes, I have waited a few years for his bubble to be burst, having considered his performances highly suspicious from his first TdF win. Sadly this is not a surprise, rather a confirmation of all the “amazing” performances being just that, “amazing”. Sadly i believe this is only the start of a bigger dismantling of these amazing performances.
    I love that cycling has taken an incredibly bold stance on cleaning itself up, unlike many other wealthier sports. As fans, to support this approach, not being fooled by fairy tale stories again should be our focus.
    Super humans do not exist, or do they?
    Thank you Mr. Inrng for a truly amazing blog. First on my reading list everyday. You keep my passion for this sport high. Ride on!

    • Fairy tales: I think that you are right. Cycling is, unlike football for instance, which is a skill/coordination sport, predominately about physical performance or power/weight/resistance ratios. Tactics, skill and strategy are secondary. In such a case, and with such large reward differentials, it is not surprising that many riders will seek to optimise performance in any compliant or non-detectable they can. Was it reasonable to accept that Sky could obtain outstanding results without succumbing to temptation?

      • But people start from a point where they think the best of their fellow man.
        I’d prefer to live my life that way.
        Otherwise what’s the point.
        Enjoying sport, rather like music, is one of life’s essentials.
        It’s free, or affordable (or it should be), and attainable unlike other ‘elite’ culture – I can’t afford to go to a 5 star restaurant every week, I’ll never own a Van Gogh painting or live in a penthouse overlooking Central Park.
        I don’t want to become a cynical sports fan. The day that happens will be the day I’ll take up collecting model trains or something.
        I appreciate this blog, and other such cycling media, for their educative, amusing and interesting content. It adds to the sport and the enjoyment.
        Your viewpoint adds absolutely nothing.

      • “Cycling is, unlike football for instance, which is a skill/coordination sport, predominately about physical performance or power/weight/resistance ratios. Tactics, skill and strategy are secondary”.

        This is obviously nonsense.

        Let’s start from the end. There’s a more than decent number of races which weren’t won by the physically “strongest” rider (whatever that might mean). There’s a more than decent number of races where final gaps and position don’t reflect physical hierarchy.
        Even most important: unlike several specialties from track & field, cycling isn’t about isolating a performance from as many variable as possibile, although a certain way to modify the sport might make new fans think so. It’s about a complex environment. How fast were the previous climbs ridden? The finishing climb is being tackled with a regular pace and final forcing or do you need to match continuosus attacks and accelerations? Slipstream or solo riding? Big or small group? Those factors will change hugely the nature of the final performance.
        Whom we call the strongest is usually the strongest under some very specific race conditions which he needs to create in order to win. Think track & field again: not every 10,000 mts champion is as strong on 1,500 mts. and the other way around. That’s the difference between a 30′ and a 5′ full throttle effort, and that’s the sort of different “things” which a same final climb can be turned into by strategy.
        Then there’s the whole and huge question about effort efficiency. There’s a fundamental aspect of self-perception and self-management of the conscious part of your semi-authomatic breathing (and even cardiac) processes, adjusting the nature, timing and intensity of your effort to make it more effective. Sort of an “inner” coordination which is hard to perceive on video but which is well-known if you practise the sport.
        I won’t even start to speak about the technique part, but the athlete/bike/position/movement combination is fundamental, far from being a marginal gain. Just have a look at how much the ITT performance can be changed by these factors – that’s an easy way to check that, but they’re active all the time. Very few and very recent “champions” of the sport looked like they were not so “elegant” or “good to see” while pedalling (a synthetic index for that sort of efficiency), be it on the cobbles or on a climb.

        Anyway, have a look at how the physical setup of football players evolved in the last century. Check that against cyclists’. Now, armchair bla bla bla aside, ask yourself why a purely physical evolution of the athlete is being sought if it’s not a decisive factor. And the other way around.

        This kind of statement simply depends on most viewers being sensitive to the differential technical qualities of the sport they know better: you see what you’re trained to see, and you just can’t see what you’re not used to. Since football is a mass sport, it’s also more probable that the mass product which represent it are able to show better its technical contents, unlike what tends to happen in cycling’s case.

    • TDF winners with “fairy tales”:

      From hack to leader of the pack.
      Changed training methods, lost weight, lungs grew and muscles came back different, from track star to TDF star, cured mulitple diseases in a few weeks, had an appointment with a gynecologist…..

      • Very, very, very different kinds of fairy tale.

        Pantani, Contador and Ullrich were always bound to be the next big thing, since very early juvenile years.
        They shone pretty much as soon as they became pro.
        Pantani was podiuming both at the Giro and at the Tour’s final GC when he was 24 (same season). He always won the Tour’s white jersey whenever he was eligible for it.
        Ullrich nearly won his first TdF ever, yet an under 23, still a neopro (like Quintana). He had got a bronze ITT title against the pro when he was 21. He went on to win the next one. He also always won the white jersey in every single TdF in which he was eligible for that.
        I hope you remember about Contador.
        Yes, both Pantani and Contador indeed had to overcome serious and not doping-related health issues throughout their careers.

        Even a so-called late blossomer like Indurain – famous as such among cycling fans – was a known juvenile prospect and was winning shorter stage races (Andalucía) against the pro as soon as at his 21. But he was being protected and guided through a gradual growth by his team (that eventually became present Movistar): all the same, at 24 he was winning Volta a Catalunya, and Pa-Ni for the following two years. At 25 he was winning a TdF mountain stage. He doubled Vuelta (Spring edition) and Tour at 26 and got a final GC top ten in both. Note that he was constantly supporting as a gregario Delgado’s GT’s bids, including the 1988 winning one and the podia in 1989 and 1990.

        Armstrong was a very good one-day racer and Wiggins a huge track champion. I’ll leave to someone else to decide if that’s enough to make of you a GC champion.

        Riis was 29 when he obtained his first ever decent GC performance in a GT, a 5th place at the 1993 TdF after a Giro stage that May, although at least he had won a (single) Giro stage before. The latter had been the *only* relevant pro win of his career for years and years, that is, until his 1993 breakthrough season. Back then they already called him Monsieur 60%.

        I’ll leave it to you to decide whose fairy tale is similar to which one.

        • The sentence about Ullrich’s ITT got inserted between two already existing ones and that may create misunderstanding. He went on to win the TdF after nearly getting it in 1997, no relations with the ITT Worlds.

        • FFS gabriele. We know Pantani was doped to the gills as a teenager. This guff about always being the next big thing proves absolutely nothing in the context of doping. Except, perhaps, that the rider in question doped early and doped often.

          • o__O
            Who’s “We”?
            I’d guess *you* barely know anything about Pantani’s teenager career. At most *you* could google out his juvenile teams’ names. Let me know if *you* ever get any further. I’m curious. But I should have expected you. Ignorance is Legion! “You don’t forgive. You don’t forget”. After all, how can one forget if he ain’t know a thing in the first place?

            I don’t have any personal issue with Anonymous posts (in fact, I take part in this comment section only thanks to the possibility to stay anonymous), but using anonymity to state nonsense which might otherwise bring legal action upon you is pretty much pathetic, besides being utterly loutish towards our host who could be forced to respond for you. He or she probably won’t ever, and for sure not because of me. Yet, I fail to understand why you should be risking to cause such a predicament.

            That said, let me show my goodwill having a look together to some other TdF champions with a fairy tale about them.

            Why not Greg LeMond? Quite a fairy tale. As a kid who won race after race he was racing against boys of a superior age category. He was still a junior when he got US national in the top category. He first podiumed at the TdF when he was 23. His first Tour. It was 3, 2, 1st. Then “we all know”, but he got back strong. Fairy tale, of the good kind.

            How old was LeMond’s rival, Fignon, when he won his first Tour (and first TdF he ever rode)? 23. As a first-year junior, he had won half of the races he started. Still an amateur, he hold Hinault’s wheel for much of an open race and was offered a pro contract at 21.
            Well, Hinault himself got pro at 20. In a couple of years time he was winning the Liège. He won his first GT ever, the 1978 Vuelta, when he was 24. 1980 Tour apart (which he couldn’t finish because of his knee woes), he went on never to lose any GT until the 1984 Tour, when he was runner-up.

            Merckx won his first GT, the Giro, when he was 23 (he got a top-ten during his first attempt the year before), Gimondi at that same age won the Tour de France and podiumed at the Giro (same season). Same age for Anquetil’s first Tour, while Gaul only podiumed (he went on to win the Giro the following year, anyway). Coppi wasn’t even 21 when he won his first Giro, then the war forced him to wait before he could bring home the rest. Bartali had had more time. He was 25 when the WWII started and he had already got 2 Giros (the first one when he was 22) and one TdF (24 years old).

            Several of them had doping troubles. Some didn’t. Doping might have been more or less effective through the decades, depending on the possibilities offered by sport science.
            Whatever. I know that “you know” beyond any doubt, they for sure were “doped to the gills” since their youth and *that* made all the difference against the rest. “They doped early and doped often”, unlike those good guys you love who doped later and only from time to time. Only when they needed to win a GT or some prep race.

            Feel free to highlight for me the Pollentier of this world who won their first Giro when they were 26, without ever having entered the top 5 of any GT before, or the Rooks who transform their one-day talent in a 2nd place at the TdF when they’re 28, the Virenque, the Jaskula, the Rumsas, the Horner or whatever else role model you’ve got to prove the argument of late surprise blossoming.

          • Almost every success story can be described as a fairy tale. That’s certainly how all sports biographies are framed.

            And, of course, some fairy tales are more similar than others. Without necessarily being the same.

          • @Nick
            Pantani, Ullrich, Fignon, Anquetil, Coppi… for different reasons I wouldn’t describe those as fairy tales, although they’re stories of success.
            Things are similar to other things, and that doesn’t necessarily mean anything. But it’s a start point to think about. Surely, the stories I recalled above aren’t the same at all. Yet, they’ve got something in common which *might* suggest a statistical pattern.
            My point was indeed to differentiate a list which pretended to mix a set of situations among which, as you say very well, “some are more similar than others” – I wouldn’t ever say that they’re the same. They just *might* have something in common, which those being less similar *might* have not.

        • “Ullrich nearly won his first TdF ever, yet an under 23, still a neopro (like Quintana). He had got a bronze ITT title against the pro when he was 21. He went on to win the next one. He also always won the white jersey in every single TdF in which he was eligible for that.
          I hope you remember about Contador.”

          Only time for 2:
          Ullrich: was banned for two years in February 2012 by the Court of Arbitration for Sport for blood doping and he has now admitted his guilt. Ullrich revealed he was treated by Eufemiano Fuentes, the doctor at the centre of a doping scandal in Spain.
          “Almost everybody back then took performance-enhancing substances,” he told German magazine Focus. “I didn’t take anything which the others were not taking.”

          Contador: Name was on Fuentes list. The MALE cyclist also had an appointment with the gynecologist Feuntes. AC rode very differently when he came back from suspension, no more super human attacks. I think he rode clean after the suspension.

          • Ullrich: Oh, what a surprise!!! I didn’t know that!!! Thanks!!! It would have made a bit more sense if you spoke of the universitary scandal at T-Mobile, Fuentes happened way later. But truth is that your point is void, as I’ll explain below.

            Contador: Contador wasn’t on Fuentes lists, even if it’s possibile that he worked with him. But it’s for now impossibile to prove, there are no specific elements.
            You have no idea about his way of riding, apparently, so I can only guess how good your ideas about his doping are. The Guardiagrele action was something every *human* rider does every day, sure. Or when he killed Froome uphill in the 2014 Vuelta. Or the Mortirolo 2015. And I could go on. My advice: stop trying wondering if a rider is clean, unless you’re speaking of a definite event.

            I’m not defending anyone is clean. I’m highlighting the differences between different riders. Something you can do even going way back in cycling history, when science hadn’t provided as an effective a doping as in the 90s, for example.

            You’re making a list of fairy tales. I’m just saying they’re quite different among them. I’ll leave the conclusions to the readers.

    • The only point in your post that I would disagree with is ‘super humans do not exist’. I would argue that they do. Every now and then you get someone who, for want of a better word, is a freak (physiologically speaking). Miguel Indurain, whether in the latter part of his career he was doped or not, was a freak with a ridiculously low resting heart rate. Greg Lemond was a freak with a massively high VO2max. Apparently Philippe Gilbert has a freakish ability to not suffer from the effects of lactic acid. There will have been some reason why Fausto Coppi could do what he did, and why Jacques Anquetil could be so much faster than everyone else in time trials (beyond his consumption of amphetamines), though they might not have known the details at the time. Plus in other sports you have Usain Bolts ability to sprint without looking like trying, Michael Jordan’s ability to hang in the air and Michael Phelps’ ability to mimic a dolphin. They do occur from time to time.

    • +1 in general, though I don’t think cycling deserves much in the way of kudos for taking on the doping issue. Maybe the new UCI guy might be different but more has been done in scandal-management than true anti-doping for way too long now.
      My guess is Froome will get a short, back-dated suspension and show up ready to race at the Giro. This will lead the casual fans to wonder, “Wait, didn’t that guy get caught as a dope cheat not too long ago? What’s he doing at the Giro (Tour) now? Doesn’t seem like pro cycling really cares about their image as a doped-up sport. They make headlines with catching dope cheats but they turn up at the start line later anyway. Same s__t, different day.”
      Disney putting an end to SKY cycling? I would like to see that for the same reasons I’d like to see BigTex reduced to a pauper in the whistle-blower lawsuit. Otherwise it’s the old “end justifies the means” all over again.

    • Thank you! I was beginning to worry that no-one would comment on this. The video is so bad that it doesn’t even arrive at the good-bad end of the scale.

  10. He’s a pro cyclist, he’s doping. They’re a pro cycling team, they utilising performance enhancing substances. Look at the history of cycling, why would anyone think pro riders don’t dope?

  11. I have a question about Tony Martin’s post and the rulebook. I understood that the paragraph quoted above says that the UCI can impose a suspension or not if they think it is necessary, but it is neither done in every case nor it is unthinkable to suspend a rider. So they are allowed to make a decision for any reason possible. Are there any clear guidelines when to suspend a rider or not?
    It is clear the UCI followed the rules. But it is possible the UCI had two options to choose from and they chose the one in favour of Froome and Team Sky. So it seems necessary to question the motives behind the decision. But I am not really sure about this thing because I do not know if the paragraph from the rulebook has these big implications.
    I am also unsure about the comparison with the case of Diego Ulissi or other riders like Petacchi because I can not remember the details correctly. It would be important to compare the actions of the UCI after they got news of the results. Were there any riders who had similar results like Froome suspended and why? And did the UCI announce the results in other cases early or were they leaked like in this one?
    Does this make sense? Or am I missing a few things?

  12. “….about one in four cases don’t become public because they’re explained away.”

    These explainded away cases are what Froomes doping lawyer is studying now. Looking for holes, excuses, explanations.

  13. Do we know who is paying for Froomes PK test or the hiring of “the UKs top sports lawyer”?is it Team sky, the team with the biggest budget in pro cycling? Or Froome, supposedly the highest paid rider in the UK peloton? One can’t help but think that if that this had happened to some lowly domestique on a pro conti team, he would be simply thrown under the bus.

    Gues thats just the way the legal system works but still…

  14. “…Dave Brailsford’s feud with cyclingnews and others means they’ve got a lack of friends in sections of the media…”

    Where’s journalistic objectivity from ‘cyclingnews and others’ here? The sentence gives the impression that Brailsford’s biggest mistake was being born without charm. Sports journalists should avoid becoming celebrities who are part of the story. In a good story the facts do the damning themselves: feelings and opinions are superfluous.

    Anyway, my non-journalistic ‘feeling’ is this: Sky became so obsessed with pushing against the ‘line they wouldn’t ever cross’ so hard and for so long that the line inevitably broke, like metal fatigue. And they were pushing so hard that they shot passed it by 200%.

    • The spat was just part of something coming to the surface with the team reportedly telling journalists that some topics are off limits and it seems those that do go on to ask awkward questions are not invited to future press conferences.

    • CyclingNews and The Guardian’s Sean Ingle clearly can’t stand Brailsford. Tbh, what does SDB owe anyone in the media? Anyone with half a brain knew that “marginal gains” would mean pushing into a grey area in all senses, and that whatever they were doing would come out in the wash eventually. Most of it would be ethically sound, some of it wouldn’t be.

      All that’s been proven by watching the racing since 2010 is that it’s pretty obvious nobody is pushing a cow syringe full of of EPO in themselves like the 90s and early 2000s. That’s not to say it’s gone entirely (what with potential for Microdosing) but it’s nowhere near as bad. But besides that, who knows?

      • “Pretty obvious”.

        Maybe, among other things, they’re just abusing GH (which is hard stuff and which is still as hard to catch as it was back then, despite the odd positive from time to time). And I guess you’ve read the recent scientific article on Lancet Haemtology about EPO, haven’t you?

        Quite a lot of people still haven’t got what the *biggest* problem with doping was back in the 90s and early 2000s. And it wasn’t “people pushing syringe full EPO in themselves”, just in case you were wondering.

  15. Regarding InnerRing’s point in the article:
    If there is a ban then Froome will lose the Vuelta title and the accompanying ranking points but as it’s a specified substance – that catchphrase again – the rules say all subsequent results can stand, whether the bronze in Bergen or the Shanghai “criterium”
    Does this hold for future races?
    If so, we could therefore see a situation where this drags onto next season unresolved, Froome not suspended and free to ride the Giro. If he wins, then subsequently is sanctioned for the Vuelta test, he will keep his Giro title? (ie, the opposite of Contradors “win” in the Giro after his clembuterol positive)

  16. Thanks for the wrap up.
    Interesting this specified products things. It puzzles me that the benefits given by the products are not taken into account.
    As well, if I understand well, products are classified as specified because breaching the limits may be incidental. Then it is up to the riders to hire scientists/experts to prove that the breach is incidental and linked to the metabolism of the riders. I suspect this is much easier to do the for the froomes if this workd than for a dark gregario.

    All this still seems me quite touchy and not specially fair. Rules must be better defined. The scientists should be hired by the ruie maker at the moment of writing them, not by the riders when trying to avoid a sanction.

  17. If Froome actually replicates the results though… that’d be a twist that throws the cat amongst the pigeons. It would be totally ridiculous and yet not entirely un-Froome-like.

  18. I hadn’t read Section 8 properly before you quoted it here. Surely, as written, it is damning for Froome. It emphasises that all use of Salbutamol is prohibited and explains that the only reason there is a tolerance level is because it is possible to be encountered “inadvertently”. Given that Froome has publicly admitted using the substance, while claiming to only do so in doses that should keep him under the tolerance limit, hasn’t he lost the “inadvertent” defence and so is guilty regardless of whatever level he tests at?

    Now, I realise that the reality – the public reality – of the situation is that lots of cyclists openly take small doses of Salbutamol so the chances are my logic had gone astray somewhere. But, in isolation, I can’t see how Section 8 allows any use without a TUE.

  19. Re;
    ‘the new owners may decided enough is enough… or current management think their sponsorship has had a good run, time to try something less accident-prone.’

    … I wouldn’t be surprised if the new owners took that action. I do think that this is either another failure of management and effective governance, or a quirky test result due to the level of dehydration at the end of the race. Perhaps the test should measure salbutamol in a different way. How common is dehydration in the pro peloton at this level?

    Whatever the outcome, I’m not sure Sky Procycling will continue through to the end of 2018.

    • I’d agree that this is possibly a failure in terms of governance, at UCI, within Team Sky or across both.

      It doesn’t look good to me, anyway: if the “new UCI” wanted to make Sky know that new times require new attitudes, or that old attitudes aren’t compatible anymore with the new management – which would be legitimate and even advisable – they could have at least left the team a little more time to show goodwill. A less suicidal way than making the top news in generalist media with *this* could be probably found.
      Frankly, I didn’t totally like how Astana’s whole matter was managed some three years ago by the old boss, but that still was way better than the look of this (especially how they finally arranged that situation, while the premises were equally awful).

      Maybe “cycling world” was done with what everybody probably knew was going on (and the dismissal of Cookson may have something to do with that), hence this was someway a necessary action in order to further move on. Maybe.
      And ASO won’t be too unhappy, either, if the Giro’s big plan gets derailed; and it would be even better if the TdF could get a breath of air after the audience crisis of the last couple of years: imagine no more Froome snooze racing and a national rider bound to win!
      I can understand the French envisage several upsides, but I can’t avoid feeling it’s a mess.

      However, please note that the above is a good deal of possibly meaningless chewing over and over. No fact.

      What is more of a fact is that debating dehydration in Froome’s case is, again, quite laughable.
      His monstre performance on the final short climb isn’t compatible with dehydration.
      The temperature was some perfect 20ºC of Spanish September with barely a breeze.
      The final climb as such is too short to provoke dehydration (5′).
      It was preceded by more than half an hour of relaxed riding on easy, wide, flattish roads, where Sky was controlling the pace (an eased one – the lone Aru gained a minute over the pack!) until the very last moment when they set the final forcing out.
      Voluntary “functional dehydration”, if it even exists, doesn’t make sense if, in the best case imagined by Palfreeman, it grants you some 6″ gain at most on a course like this, while you’re at the same time risking a lot of unintended effects, from organic stress to power drop… or altering your antidoping test.
      So, come on… dehydration… Sheahan was badly cramping in that match.

  20. I keep hearing that they can tell if salbutamol is taken orally by inhalation.
    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.

    “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)


    • I think I had already read it and it said that there’s a way complying with WADA principles but it isn’t officially in use yet. Interesting that they’re working hard on the subject. It shows how relevant the question is. But leave me ten minutes and I’ll scroll it through again.

    • “Based on the above evidence, an analytical method involving a solid-phase clean-
      up procedure followed by a chiral HPLC separation and a mass spectrometric
      detection to quantify separately the enantiomers of salbutamol and it sulphate
      conjugates has been developed and validated according to ISO17025 and WADA
      requirements … A method for the extraction and amplification of genomic DNA form blood,
      urine and saliva samples was developed and validated, permitting to obtain genomic DNA of adequate quality starting from 2-5 μL of serum, 1-10 mL of urine or 2-5 μL of saliva respectively”.

  21. Is there any publicly available information on the timeline available and the processes allowed for Chris Froome to explain his urine value?

    Presumably if it was just a matter of citing pharmacokinetic research to say it is possible that 800mcg of inhaled Salbutamol in 12 hours can return a urine value of >2000ng/ml then he just needs to file the academic paper or persuade the lead researcher to testify, except there don’t seem to be many/any papers. There’s two I’ve found where 2000ng/ml is exceeded in the results but only after either 8mg taken orally or 1600mcg taken by inhaler in one go (16puffs)

    The other option is to have lab tests but how to recreate the stress of a three week tour and even then presumably despite taking salbutamol regularly on previous tours this is the first time he’s tripped the limit. Is this the first time he chosen to up the dose?

    I can’t help thinking that if he is allowed sufficient time and there is a process that actually means it’s possible then riding the Giro maybe is potentially just a pharmacokinetic experiment for Chris and Sky. Why else would he announce that he’s riding the Giro with this in the background (other than supreme naïveté about the consequences of a AAF).

  22. Didn’t know that they even control the criterium. Well, it is a UCI sanctioned race, but can they strip result from a “fixed” performance race?

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