Froome-quently Asked Questions

Chris Froome is set to resume racing at the upcoming Ruta Del Sol race in Spain. So far, so normal as it’s common for stage race specialists to start their season here, Froome himself did so in 2015 (pictured) and you might remember his battle with Alberto Contador. This isn’t a normal situation with Froome’s ongoing anti-doping case following the excessive quantity of salbutamol from last year’s Vuelta. There are lots of questions, here are a few answers…

Why isn’t he suspended? Because his sample was positive for salbutamol which is a “specified substance” under the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) rules. This is a sub-classification in therules and so while we might be used to the UCI suspending riders as soon as their A-sample comes back positive it’s different with a specified substance.

Why is it different? The UCI says specified substances are “a substance that WADA considers more likely to have been consumed for a purpose other than performance enhancement”. In general these specified substances are often allowed up to a specified limit or via a specified treatment. Athletes are allowed to use salbutamol by inhaler and up to a specified limit. It’s different to, say, EPO where if an athlete is positive there can be no excuse, they’re out.

Why is it taking so long? First all anti-doping cases take a long time to resolve. Diego Ulissi is a good precedent given he too was almost twice the permitted limit of salbutamol, and for reasons he could not adequately explain. His positive test in the Giro in May 2014 saw him sanctioned in January 2015. Why so long? Anti-doping tribunals don’t happen every day, it’s not like there’s a court sitting with cases filing past the judges every hour. It takes time to find dates that suit all parties, to review and then reconvene and so on. Copy-pasting the 35 week timetable would mean Froome’s verdict falls in early May.

But it’s not so transposable, going by French newspaper L’Equipe (€) Froome has hired a big legal defence team and Team Sky has committed to limitless funding so in speculation this could take longer as they ask for more time to build their case and explore every angle and clause. The journalist who helped break the story tweeted today that “five months on Sky have not supplied an explanation for the excess salbutamol“:

Should it be hurried up? There’s headline after headline quoting people saying this needs to be cleared up quickly (who would call for prevarication and delay?). However this cannot be rushed. A sports ruling is just that whether it adjudicates on a millionaire cyclist or a penniless pentathlete and it doesn’t happen in isolation from civil law and basic rules of justice. Neither side should be rushed or pressured because if this happens then one side can appeal in a civil court, the verdict risks being overturned and we end up with a bigger mess. Festina lente.

Can it be hurried up? If one side is delaying then yes, the other side can call this out as part of the hearing. WADA can intervene if it thinks the UCI is being sleepy here. But for now the timing is reasonable, if this was a race schedule then it might might be on a slow speed but still within the prescribed times set by past cases. However if Froome’s defence case drags on and it becomes his strategy to play for time then there will come a point where the UCI will have to decide that it has given Froome a generous period of time to make his case but he still cannot explain the elevated salbutamol levels therefore a sanction must be applied. There’s little guidance here and the UCI has to be generous in order to avoid an appeal that the case was rushed.

Why don’t they expedite it? Don’t confuse hearings at the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) which can be expedited to review UCI or other WADA rulings. CAS hearings can be expedited and hold ad hoc hearings. The UCI has provisions for this but they won’t want to rush this.

The UCI President says Froome should be suspended and the rules allow for Froome to be suspended so why isn’t Froome suspended? Because of two reasons, first Froome was not provisionally suspended when this case was first raised then there’s been nothing material since to suspend him and he hasn’t agreed or volunteered to be suspended. Second because anti-doping within the UCI is notionally independent and thankfully gone are the days when the President can suspend someone just because they want to.

The UCI? It is cycling’s governing body but comprises several departments, here the case is handled by two departments, the CADF and the LADS. They’ve done a very handy press release which explains plenty.

Why didn’t Sky suspend him? It’s not a team’s right to suspend athletes but they can seek this. Perhaps they were happy with the internal procedure before this matter became public and a provisional suspension would have meant making this case public which they didn’t want on the hope that it would all be resolved in private.

Should he self-suspend? Yes says Jeremy Whittle over at but it’s uncommon for people to stop work ahead of a trial on a voluntary basis. If Froome did I’m not sure it would help anti-doping much and would just get headlines of “retreat” as an implicit admission of guilt either on Froome’s side or wider for Team Sky. The time to suspend was September but Sky missed the window and they aren’t in the MPCC group of teams either.

What’s Froome’s defence? Froome was quick to deny a story in Corriere delle Serra that he could just admit negligence and cop a short ban. This would have been the “Acceptance of Consequences” route which, among others, has been used by Simon Yates – another Brit in trouble over asthma medicine – when he got a four month ban for Terbutaline and backdated because of Yates’s admission. Froome hasn’t denied L’Equipe’s report that he’s going to fight the case in the UCI’s tribunal which is more of an all-or-nothing bid and where he’ll need to convincingly prove – not just suggest – that his abnormally high salbutamol test can be explained. He has brought in a high profile sports lawyer with a mixed record, “saving” some athletes from long bans but also seeing others, like Alberto Contador, get served with predictable due process. Ultimately if Froome cannot explain the unusually high quantity of salbutamol he will get an anti-doping sanction and serve a ban.

What does Froome risk? The maximum ban is two years, again a specified substance attracts a shorter ban compared to the now standard four year tariff.

What races could he lose? Every result after the date of the positive test now has an asterisk against it to signal “pending resolution” meaning the bronze medal in Bergen is at stake, as will be any results obtained in 2018.

  • Note: this post previously stated some results could be kept but that looks unlikely now under rule 10.8 of the WADA Code, copied by the UCI and the text above has been amended.

Could the Giro exclude him? The Giro, like the Tour and other races does have a clause in its rulebook (Article 2A in case you want to google Giro regolamento) that allows the race to exclude riders who might damage the interests of the race. But this is a bantamweight rule both in theory and practice. In practice because the Tour de France has tried to block riders like Tom Boonen in the wake of his cocaine problems only for the CAS to rule he’s eligible to race so these rules don’t work. In theory because if a rider is eligible to race the Ruta Del Sol or the Tour of Whatever then the Giro has almost no grounds to exclude them. Even less if the same race has reached an agreement with the rider, their management company or team to invite them and pay them appearance money to attend the race.

When would a ban start? Normally on the day the verdict is reached. So copy-paste Ulissi and we’d get a nine month ban awarded this May meaning he’d be pulled out of the Giro and would have to sit out the Tour and Vuelta too. The start date can be backdated to the date of the Vuelta only if it can be proved that Froome’s case was delayed by the UCI, the idea being that if a governing body dithers then the athlete should not have to pay for this. But going by the reports we read, the delays appear to be coming from the Froome camp so this backdating looks unlikely.

Is this a mess? Yes and 1,000 words later this post has only covered the most frequently asked questions and all in a brief manner rather than cover more questions, nor explore each of the issues raised in more details to examine the finer details.

155 thoughts on “Froome-quently Asked Questions”

  1. A pre-emptive comment to steer people away from the trial of Team Sky/Chris Froome via blog comments, a common phenomenon when Sky are mentioned on the internet and sometimes for good reasons but this blog post isn’t the place: this is largely a technical explainer of the rules, procedures and precedents and so try to explore these issues.

  2. As mess with no end in sight.

    If I read what you have written correctly, if the hearing was delayed until after the Giro or even the TdF and they found against him then any results in those races would not be affected just the Vuelta? The suspension would only be effective after the verdict?

    • Under the normal application of the rules he would lose the Vuelta but not any subsequent results like the silver in Bergen, the Ruta Del Sol, Giro, Tour etc.

      I’ve now changed my mind on this, he would probably lose all subsequent results, so the Bergen bronze and any subsequent results in 2018.

      • That seems to be the tactic: delay the decision until after the Giro and Tour. That way, if the result goes against him, he can still ‘win’ those races and then either retire or take a year out. I’m imagining that delaying is the main reason, as a successful defence seems so implausible; then again, who would be surprised by such a result?

        • Wow! This sounds a very plausible sequence of events. Hold out the hearing (hopefully) until the Tour ends, then probably plead negligence and negotiate a 8-9 month ban – which would make him only miss Vuelta/ WC, which he wouldnt have attempted anyway, and be back early 2019 to fight for the Tour/ Giro (whatever he wishes) again.
          By then, if he has ‘won’ the Giro OR Giro+Tour, he would have Won all GTs OR won his 5 TdF, good enough point in time for him to even retire completely of the sport (incase he lands a 2 year ban).
          Another theory circulating on The Cycling Podcast (actually floated by one of the listeners) was that Froome, who has been riding crazy miles in South Africa is trying to simulate riding a Grand Tour to mimic the condition his body was in September, to reproduce the PK testing. His mileage for the prev 2-3 weeks was apparently very close to his actual mileage in Vuelta.

          • Was reported yesterday that the case has been handed over from LADS to UCI Tribunal so the opportunity for reduced ban “Acceptance of Consequences” has passed and they are on an all or nothing path… 1-2yrs suspension if he fails…

      • In that case Giro’s Mauro Vegni reported comments that “We won’t accept a repeat of the Contador case and a retrospective ban.” do not apply. Unless the hearing is scheduled to take place during the Giro if CF starts the race the result will stand where ever he finishes. Vegni (and I guess many others, me included) clearly didnt understand the details of the procedure. It will make for many hours of dull polemica between now and the Giro (& TdF).

      • Delay makes good tactical sense for Froome given these rules. If winning (for keeps) the 2018 Giro and/or Tour were not possible, the “Yates route” looks like a good enough fallback option that it might have influenced a hypothetical decision about whether to run certain risks in the first place. One way to exploit the Specified Substance rule is to “accept consequences” when caught as a way of solidifying the presumption that the adverse findings were the result of (only) puffer use, even if something more nefarious was being attempted. Why raise the question of the administration method? (In my view there could be a world of difference between taking too many puffs, versus other possible explanations for the adverse findings. Overexuberant puffer use being–as per the rules– somewhat excusable in general.)

  3. This is so difficult, as inadequate as it appears I guess it’s just a case of letting time and justice take its course, anything else is just going to make the situation even worse.
    I do wonder if RCS being able to backtrack on an appearance fee would help the case for the Giro?
    Mostly I want to see some form of justice but I do worry about the security risk to Froome on the roads of France and Italy, I don’t want to see him being abused by hooligans from the roadside that’d just make it all so much worse.

  4. Sky, by not joining the MPCC group of teams has brought this upon themselves.
    -& by not joining the MPCC welcomes the position of freedom to push boundaries. (They don’t want pesky rules to get in their way)
    -& by not joining the MPCC stretching the limits of fairness, compromises cycling further than what has already occurred.

    Can this be used as an excuse for teams who have not joined MPCC to do so now?

    • It’ll be interesting to see if the UCI copies the MPCC. They have several times with policies like the no-needles policy, the team suspensions for multiple individual doping cases and could well do again regarding cortisone use/abuse. The group gets mocked from time to time but the underlying principles remain sound for a sport that needs a few precautionary principles given its baggage.

      • Principles can only get you so far. Team Sky ‘had’ principles and a zero tolerance policy. The MPCC has principles but no power and really very little credibility with most people, we’ve seen teams withdraw entirely from the MPCC to suit their own needs. Being in the MPCC doesn’t make a team clean or trustworthy, this is a movement that had Astana on board, has Androni on board, has Bardiani on board… (and those are just the couple that come to mind, i’m certain there are other dodgy teams and riders in the MPCC)
        The MPCC cannot be taken seriously unless it has real power and integrity, and frankly it has neither.

        Now, it could build up that prestige and respect but really it would need to sort out its membership, cut out teams that broke it’s rules, work more closely with national federations and anti-doping authorites. Basically become some sort of real entity with power in the sport.

        • That’s the point of the MPCC, when teams that sign up because it looks good only to quit at the first inconvenience it says more about the teams and their desire for image rather than substance. It’s not perfect but it has led the UCI beyond to the WADA code with no needles and hopefully stricter rules on cortisone this year or next.

          • In the Astana case, the MPCC just looked like a smokescreen being used by the UCI to cover up the lack of substance in their own rules.

            In the wake of the Iglinsky scandal, they awarded Astana a WT license *on the condition* that they join the MPCC. Astana join and in the following months the MPCC (amongst others) express repeated concerns about practices going on at Astana, nothing action taken whatsoever. Eventually Astana are bored of paying lip-service to the MPCC rules and directly contravene them in the Lars Boom cortisol case, are booted out and are just free to carry on racing with their WT license!

            I don’t think anyone would argue that the MPCC have broadly been a positive influence in pro-cycling but as with all positive influences, there will be people that just want to exploit them for their own personal gain.

          • @Adam
            I think you’re a bit confused and hence spreading some misinformation: you’re probably mixing up the University of Lausanne audit with the MPCC. Astana joined MPCC well before the “Iglinsky scandal”.

            Truth is that in the following months, even when the woes of the continental team fully surfaced, MPCC always defended Astana’s attitude (“Astana respected MPCC rules, says Legeay”, CN. Again, on Cyclingtips: “Speaking to CyclingTips last week, MPCC president Roger Legeay said that it was important to treat the positive tests on the WorldTour team separate to those on the Continental team. He said that the MPCC follows the UCI’s example in regarding all such squads as separate legal entities”. They were quite open towards to the Conti team, too: “CyclingTips sought clarification from the MPCC as to why Gorbunov’s 2013 positive doesn’t appear to have been taken into consideration thus far in relation to the Continental team. It said that the team joined the organisation in January 2014 and that the number of positive tests before that point are not included”).

            Hence the “concerns” were mainly Cookson’s (and other scaremongers’), then proving themselves quite much exaggerated, since the information gathered through the ISSUL audit couldn’t allow any actual action against the team, despite those inopportune declarations by the UCI doomsayer, I mean, President. No doubt that some attitudes by Astana had been worrying, even since; and, to me, not removing Sedoun was much more so than the Boom affaire, which is very lamentable per se but which doesn’t place Astana in any different world than the wonderful “marginal gains” and “gray areas” setting which Sky’s fans look so enthralled by.

            However, we might broadly agree on your last paragraph. It’s still to be seen if a degree of the hypocrisy you describe isn’t really inherent to the MPCC as such. But, all the same, some of the measures they struggle for are worthy.

          • Just to clear the Boom case: After Boom tested for cortisol, Astana was ready to leave him at home and had all ready called in a replacement (Agnoli if I remeber correctly). However UCI did not allow Boom to be replaced, because it was to late for a regular replacement, and they (the UCI) said that Boom is not ill so the replacement due to medical reasons was not allowed.
            Only after exhausting all other means did they stick with Boom (who was really ill, he abandoned after a few days). They could start with -1, but this is the biggest race and they were defending the title.

          • I agree! The fact that the UCI adopted some MPCC rules / practices clearly show they do have some kind of power. Maybe not a formal one, but power is rarely formal anyway. And those “dodgy” teams joining, ironically, probably contributed to the adoption of those practices since the more teams join the more credibility MPCC has when pressuring for this.

  5. It would be interesting to read the case histories if all cases under the WADA/IOC anti-doping umbrella were published in the same way that legal cases are.

    What are the rules around publication of these cases? I’m assuming there is a different criteria because part of these cases involve private athlete’s medical histories. However, it would be interesting to find out how often cases are thrown out completely. From my memory, I think only Mick Rogers has avoided a sanction.

    • It’s not written up in full but we have WADA stats: (PDF). These show that in 2015 there were 5086 samples collected for cycling, 72 adverse analytical findings (aka positives) and of these 13 didn’t result in a suspension (8 for “medical reasons”, 3 for “no case to answer” and 2 for “no sanction”). It doesn’t tell us more but there are regularly positive cases in cycling and elsewhere which are explained away in quiet even if the vast majority are not explained away and result in bans.

      • Ah, thanks. It would be further interesting to see what the conditions were. I think it’s a safe assumption that some of that information would be available to Froome’s medical team through their professional journals.

        Anyways, thanks for the summary. I wonder if we could have a moratorium on this topic until it’s settled? I’ll try to do my bit and not respond like a mad fool to people’s posts!

      • Another was to look at these stats is that there were 59 suspensions in 2015. However, the report does not give any names – so were these applied ‘on the quiet’ ?

    • The UCI does publish the decisions of its anti-doping tribunal: These only go back a couple of years (the ADT was introduced under Cookson), and none appear to deal with salbutamol. It publishes all the decisions where the charges are upheld (with redactions if necessary), but doesn’t publish those where the rider is found innocent, unless the rider consents. In most cases, that seems fair enough, but in case like Froome’s, where anonymity has already gone, it might make sense for him to agree to the decision’s publication, even if he does get off.

      The UCI has also published the rules of its Anti-Doping Tribunal: These indicate that once a case gets to the Tribunal, matters move fairly quickly, with the rider being given 15 days to submit a defence, and future stages at the judge’s discretion. Looking at the judgements, the matters tend to get referred to the Tribunal within a couple of weeks of negotiations between the rider and the UCI breaking down (e.g., the rider formally rejecting the Acceptance of Consequences). Some of the reports in the cycling press indicate Froome’s reached this stage already. There’s also provision for one party to request an expedited procedure if they consider the other is dragging its heels. Clearly, the Tribunal will be cautious about using that power if Froome is completely lawyered-up, but the power is there to use.

    • The UCI does publish the decisions of its anti-doping tribunal on its website (at the link given by Inrng). These only go back a couple of years (the ADT was introduced under Cookson), and none appear to deal with salbutamol. It publishes all the decisions where the charges are upheld (with redactions if necessary), but doesn’t publish those where the rider is found innocent, unless the rider consents. In most cases, that seems fair enough, but in case like Froome’s, where anonymity has already gone, it might make sense for him to agree to the decision’s publication, even if he does get off.

      The UCI has also published the rules of its Anti-Doping Tribunal on its website. These indicate that once a case gets to the Tribunal, matters move fairly quickly, with the rider being given 15 days to submit a defence, and future stages at the judge’s discretion. Looking at the judgements, the matters tend to get referred to the Tribunal within a couple of weeks of negotiations between the rider and the UCI breaking down (e.g., the rider formally rejecting the Acceptance of Consequences). Some of the reports in the cycling press indicate Froome’s reached this stage already. There’s also provision for one party to request an expedited procedure if they consider the other is dragging its heels. Clearly, the Tribunal will be cautious about using that power if Froome is completely lawyered-up, but the power is there to use.

      [note to inrng, this is an amended version of the post I tried to make earlier with the hyperlinks removed. you can delete that one if it’s still queued. or just leave it there. up to you really, it’s your site.]

      • So this suggests that we may get a Tribunal decision before July. I seem to remember from Contador that you can still race while there is an appeal ongoing at the CAS (I’d be very surprised if this doesn’t get appealed considering its Froomes career and legacy on the line). If he gets banned prior to the tour, appeals to the cas, rides and wins the tour then the ban is upheld by the cas, I would assume it means he loses the tour.

        If I’m correct about the above, then I think we’re gonna see him at the Tour either way.


        • Contador had been cleared by his Fed before the accusation appealed to CAS. Perhaps that made a difference. I think that if Froome can’t prove his innocence to the UCI tribunal, then he’d just be out. Kreuziger was sidelined until he won the appeal, I think (but my memory works better with sport than with courts).

  6. Thanks for the quick summary. It was very informative.

    After reading this I have to concur with J Evans. Looks like their strategy is to stall as much as possible, so he attempt the Giro Tour double and then take the ban if it can’t be averted. Which isn’t doing him any favours.
    He is not guilty until prove otherwise, but still it looks really fishy. Because it is the same strategy all the proven dopers relied on, stalling and denying. Also, if his explanation for the extremely high values is a kidney anomaly, to keep going on if there was nothing sends a totally wrong message. Either he knows there is nothing, meaning he doped, or he blatently risks his health. In both cases not really a role model nor helping him to show his innocent. A self imposed suspension from any races until he can prove his innocence/his health is not affected would be more honest.

    • Am I reading that correctly then; if he’d applied and got a T.U.E., it’s subsequent dose would have taken him over the specified limit for Salbutamol anyway and would have still left him open to being sanctioned?
      Is that correct?

        • Thank you for the link, but it’s still confusing me!
          He’d have needed a T.U.E. to receive a dose more than 1600 micrograms over 24 hours, but the maximum dose allowed per 12 hours is 800 micrograms?

          Would a T.U.E. have cleared him, given the 2000 micrograms dose that he received, yes or no?

          • It’s badly edited, you must consider all that part of the sentence as a single block which could read as “over the above-mentioned thresholds”. Awkward copy and paste, very typical in rule books.
            You need a TUE either if you need to go beyond 1600 over 24 hrs. or beyond 800 over 12 hrs. But if you get it, the TUE is your out of jail card in any of these cases. You can even take the tablets with a TUE!
            Hence, the answer to your question is: “yes”.
            And the emergency TUE would have been absolutely compatible with the (unlikely) hypothesis described by velonews above.
            He’d have been fine, unless he did that with other, even more forbidden, methods (needles). But that wouldn’t really make sense to treat asthma or a cold, would it?

    • Occam’s Razor works when you’re able to provide effective explanation for the whole situation you’re taking into account. Reducing the number of factors because you reduce the number of facts is just simplistic (or kind of an excusing).
      And, just as the dehydration thing looked improbable, it’s equally weird that you produce an all-time best performance with a respiratory infection of sort on (” a five-alarm fire”). Salbutamol wouldn’t heal such infection, it would actually make it even worse because of its inihibitory effects on immune system – just offering, if anything, some temporary symptomatic relief acting on the asthma.
      This chest infection thing sounds like a deja-vu and frankly it never sounded good…

        • One would be that he previously used salbutamol, then took out his blood (thinking it was clean by then), then put it back in prior to the stage in question – the ‘Contador method’.

          • Apparently (but I’m not sure as I can’t remember the source) this shouldn’t be the case, at least according to some specialist, because salbutamol’s metabolites would face degradation (unlike clebuterol’s?). I won’t defend that the latter is true or that the specialist is right, either, it’s just something I’ve read somewhere lately. If anyone remembers better or finds the source, it might be interesting to share.

          • The amount of salbutamol in the transfused blood would have to be enormous. If Froome has about 5l of blood in his body, and added a 500ml transfusion, the concentration of salbutamol in the transfused blood would have to be roughly 20* the threshold, for the combined blood to be twice the limit.

          • @Nick
            I’m not very much convinced (euphemism) by the transfusion theory, either, but I think that the point would *not* be that all the salbutamol metabolites came from the blood bag, anyway. Just a tiny little bit which was enough to push Froome beyond the line they’re constantly flirting with. Again, as I said above I read expert opinion about the problems we’d actually meet defending such a theory, but I’m not sure that your argument here really applies (sure, I’d agree that circumstances don’t overlap with Contador’s case, anyway).

            However, we’ve got studies which show that even a single heavy dose of orally taken salbutamol enhances performance.
            This is the last I happened to find around and I quote it since it’s very specific: “after administering a single oral therapeutic dose of salbutamol to healthy, elite endurance trained male athletes, acute ergogenic effects were demonstrated in terms of a reduced extent of exercise induced arterial hypoxemia (EIAH), as well as an improvement in time to exhaustion during a constant-load test, which indicated a meaningful performance-enhancing effect in a race situation”. Very small sample but good methodology, University Hospital of Copenhagen, 2009 (Andersen, Kanstrup).

            My very personal take is that they probably did something like this and thought they’d get away with it.

          • Froome didn’t transfuse blood… talk about starting fires.

            I definitely suspect FroomeSky’s marginal gains is code for advanced preparation techniques. These are advanced preparation techniques are well into the grey-zone of what is legal/ethical. However, blood transfusions is way over the line and there is no chance (in my opinion) that Sky would ever touch that.

            Don’t forget, their worst transgression that we know of is use of TUEs for cortisone, which technically is legal, even though it is in the opinions of many, it breaks the substance of the rules. If there was any use of micro-dosing EPO/HGH/etc. or blood transfusions, modern anti-doping tests can detect these with pretty solid results so it wouldn’t be a secret.

            Forget blood transfusions, they’re not doing that.

          • CA, how can you make such a 100% certain statement when, like me, you have no idea?
            All I’ve done is suggest a possibility: you’re stating ‘facts’.
            And you’re that certain that you couldn’t infuse small amounts of blood over periods of time without being detected? You’re that much of an expert?

          • @CA
            We don’t know if they’re doing blood transfusion.

            You say they “wouldn’t touch” that sort of things, yet they hired Leinders who was an expert and many already suspected that even from outside or from far well before the scandal broke out. Didn’t Sky? (Team Sky, Oct 2012: “we looked fully into his work with us […]. We had no doubts about his work with us or his approach. Before employing him we also made checks, gathered references and he was interviewed by Dr Steve Peters” – oh wait, *that* Dr Peters).
            And the Henao thing doesn’t look great, either.

            Sky’s use of TUEs looked more or less as legal as Juventus FC’s *management* of referees before the whole history came out to confirm what everybody knew (and worse). It had long felt stinky to say the least. But maybe in Sky’s case we’re seeing a lot of smoke and the fire actually isn’t down there… Whatever. When rules are *bent* (it’s not about “shifting”), that’s not “gray” to me.

            You’re wildly underrating cortisone (I wrote a couple of lines here about cortisone and Sky some years ago, before it made the news).

            Antidoping tests aren’t solid at all against HGH or EPO microdosing. They aren’t even doing their best against transfusions.

            And a single tablet of salbutamol can be notably performance enhancing but more often than not you won’t be able to accuse the rider because he stays below the threshold and unless he takes it on TV you won’t know he’d taken it orally (through current testing).

            Well, I don’t think that it’s *only* a technical problem about detection, either (just look the mess we had a couple of times at least with the bio-passport).

            But that’s a debate we already had, here I just wanted to state a couple of things about which you’re not being exact, IMHO.

    • To give them the benefit of the doubt, if Froome did restrict himself to a legal dose of Salbutamol, but exceeded the threshold anyway, then Sky don’t know why it happened. All they would know is that something odd happened inside his body to stop the Salbutamol excreting normally, and that it only happened on this day but no other. A real head-scratcher for them.

  7. (The only way he can be fully cleared is by legally replicating the results, surely(?))

    Having titles retrospectively stripped is becoming a routine part of sport (and so be it). The public need to learn to be comfortable with that… it simply means that the science and the law is doing its job. People who want sportsmen to take a moral stand are idealists who haven’t paid attention to the lessons of 2000 years of history.
    Morality is what the law says it is: if you’re upset by that, then campaign to change the law.

  8. On a related point, and for suspensions of less than 12 months, it seems surprising that the point at which a short supension is imposed does not impact on the length of the suspension. Four months from March would have massive consequences while four months from, say, October would be far less serious. Could the rider/team engineer to help ensure that a favourable start point is arrived at? Maybe Mr Ring could elucidate on this point.

    • There are better periods to be suspended in theory, yes. Ulissi, him again, served much of his ban over winter and when the likes of Pozzato and Visconti were banned after being caught using Doctor Ferrari their six month bans were also winter ones. But for Froome and Sky a doping ban is going to be a disaster, the timing will be the least of their problems.

      • Totally agree, if Froome loses this and the result comes out sometime this summer, I think he’ll vacate any results since the positive test, no?

        For one, he’d lose the Vuelta for sure, and let’s say he wins the Giro this spring and starts prep for the Tour, he’ll lose the chance for Giro-Tour double. Plus, because he didn’t self-suspend since the doping test came back, he’ll have to serve a suspension that will cancel any chance of winning the 2018 Tour/Vuelta (assuming a shortened 6-9 month ban).

        Now, moving forward there is a huge problem, he’s turning 33 this spring, so if he’s lost out on 2018 and can race in 2019 (potentially best-case scenario, because a 2-year ban would take him to his 36th year), then he’s now racing against biology to add a 5th TdF. It is extremely hard to win in your mid-30’s, especially with the crop of young men in their primes (Landa, Quintana, Dumoulin, Bardet, etc.).

        Then, with Sky’s new owners, will they want to keep sponsoring a doping team? Will there be a British inquiry? These are other organisational issues that may result in Froome looking for a new team after a potential ban. Can Froome win if he’s on BMC?

        So, yeah Froome has a lot to lose.

  9. Despite all the rules and legal niceties, the hotheads along the route will see him as a doper and cheater, and will try to treat him to theirkind of “justice”.
    It is difficult to protect cyclists on public roads, I am afraid of the consequences. It is a mess, I do not see a way out acceptable to all parties.

      • Froome was spitted upon and received urine at the point when there were only rumours of Sky pushing the envelope too far(2015). This will not improve in the situation he is now in.

      • Compare the Internet then to now. For one thing, most only had the Internet on a computer then. Now, its on a phone in everyone’s pocket. Also compare that Armstrong was in the “they are all at it” era. We’ve already seem people spitting and throwing things at Froome or even just Sky riders. Someone taking him down wouldn’t surprise me AT ALL.

    • The way out shouldn’t necessarily be acceptable to all parties. *Unless Froome can prove* he’s innocent (remember this is not ordinary justice but sporting one), he’ll need to bite the bullet and accept the sanction. I find it a bit disturbing – however absolutely realistic – that people might consider that in such a case the way out should be “acceptable to all parties”. It’s telling… that’s the way we feel the sport is working, at least in relation to some teams or riders. Several top riders underwent sanctions which weren’t actually acceptable to them…

      • The way out will certainly not be acceptable to all parties, that is the problem, there will always be parties who will feel like they are badly treated or as victims of a conspiracy.

      • The burden of proof can be this way in “ordinary” justice too: the prosecution proves that all the elements of the offence are present (as they have here), and it can be for the defence to prove that a particular defence applies. e.g., it can be an offence to sell particular substances, but not if you have a licence to do so. In those cases, the defendant would be expected to prove the existence of the licence.

    • This is my point as well. Froome was already fairly well hated in France before this, and has been the ‘victim’ of sporadic booing and urine throwing. Now with an actual doping case over him and more ammunition for the masses if I were another team owner or a member of the peleton I would be worried if the safety of me/my rider could be guaranteed. Even more so if I was Sky/Froome. What’s to stop anyone taking things into their own misguided hands if he is riding alone up Alpe d’huez (I think its in this year)? On that basis the RCS/ACO/UCI should be able to reject his entry on the basis of safety. And in the modern world that trumps just about everything I would have thought.

      If Sky are taking the ‘J Evans route’ and stalling for time in the hope of having the Giro and Tour in the bag before a hearing and ban then they would be no better than an Armstrong or Vinokourov in my eyes.

      • Oh lord, can we please not call it the ‘J Evans route’!

        Like many others, I too have fears about safety and particularly, as you mention, going through the cauldron of nutters that is Alpe d’Huez – it’s hard to see something untoward not happening there.

      • The safety excuse would be nonsense. It effectively condones bad behaviour by the crowd. In many football matches black players get racially abused – the answer is not banning black players.

      • Imagine Froome is innocent (not saying he is, I’m saying imagine). What will he have to put up with to prove it? What human being should have to put up with that?

        • Well, more or less the same which, dunno, Mick Rogers had to endure, or Roman Kreuziger, or Matteo Tardiani, or Remy Di Gregorio, or Daryl Impey, or Marzio Bruseghin, or Vania Rossi, or Michael Bresciani… or Iban Mayo and Danilo Di Luca (until they were caught for something they *actually* had done, I mean).
          Yes, it might be harder for him (not necessarily harder than it was for Di Gregorio or Rossi or Bresciani or Mayo: each of them for different reasons had what I’d call a harder time than Froome will ever have for his AAF), but I’d also say that he knew from scratch which his position in the movement is – I think that he even declared that in several interviews – and that implies a *greater degree* of responsibility.
          Reponsibility means expecting to be held accountable for what you do: it’s up to you to take or not greater care.

  10. Curious what the UCI says about specified substances, whereas precisely the WADA writes out in their FAQs page…

    “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”.

  11. Yet another circus, amongst the circus’s which have been going on and off in the sport in the 30 years or so I have been a participant, an organiser, club member, fan/follower and downright enthusiast. Well this should endear more into the sport, fans, sponsors etc. just you watch them clamour to get into this sport. Maybe my general apathy kicking in but the more of these “affairs” continue to make the sport a mockery the more I wonder just why I bother.

  12. I think people may have written off Froome’ s defence a bit too soon. The rules state that there is a maximum dose of salbutamol that can be inhaled in 12 or 24 hours and that urine levels above a threshold will require explanation. The assumption is that if athletes put in the allowed doses of salbutamol they will not produce urine levels above the threshold. This assumption is scientifically questionable. There is already evidence from WADA funded studies published more recently than the Ulissi case that show very high levels of urinary salbutamol can be produced by inhaled legal doses in athletes. Sky/Froome would be remiss not to request fyrther scientific studies to be performed to analyse the relationship between extreme exercise and excretion of salbutamol. The setup and conduct of these studies would take time but with so much at stake and with a belief that you did nothing wrong why wouldn’t you pursue this if you were Froome?

    • The problem with this is:
      (1) thousands of tests are done per year in cycling – if the threshold was an issue it would come up all of the time (given the high % of cyclists who seem to be asthmatics) and it would be adjusted
      (2) Froome himself will have been tested for Salbutamol hundreds of times – this issue (as far as we know) has not occurred before for him. So why are his levels so high this time?

      • There is no real precedent to compare this to. Froome was in his 39th stage and 30th or so day of being in the leaders jersey when he had the AAF. This was in the space of less than ten weeks. The physiological effects of this consistent level of performance have hardly been replicated by many people in history and certainly not in the era of modern drug testing.

        • Though Froome helpfully recreated similar conditions during his 37th, 38th, 40th, 41st and 42nd stages, and was tested after these too. Presumably those test results contain useful information.

      • Froome has said that he took a lot more than his usual dosages that day. A standard dose is going to be fine for him and others. Those thousands would also have to be tested on days when they took unusually large amounts to even have chance of passing the threshold – a low probability.

    • “There is already evidence from WADA funded studies published more recently than the Ulissi case that show very high levels of urinary salbutamol can be produced by inhaled legal doses in athletes.”

      Can you please provide references/citations? I would like to read these read these studies.

    • The UCI didn’t disallow him. Lampre withdrew him as they were an MPCC team at the time. At one point, frustrated with how long it was taking, the team unsuspended him for one race before being told they couldn’t pick and choose like that. The race result (22nd) still stands though.

  13. Interesting thing for me is that Froome has played the ‘whiter than white’ card by distancing himself from Sky when they were in difficulties over the jiffy bag; because of this I feel he will be judged very harshly.

    • He has, correctly, said that at that time he was a bit part player. You may recall that Froome only became the number 1 guy in 2013. Why would the team be telling him about jiffy bags for Wiggins, a man who detested him for the challenge he represented?

  14. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Sky employ a team of lawyers that just bury the UCI/hearing in paperwork and grey areas to the effect that he ends up being found not guilty.

    • Yup, that’s what I think is most likely. It’s hard to see how they could get away with it, but they have the money and that’s usually what matters – plus they’re good with grey areas.

  15. If this case hadn’t been leaked by the press, would we have heard about it at this stage ? (Assuming everybody follows the rules and there is no cover up).
    I have seen people saying that we wouldn’t normally know until he fails to explain the adverse finding.

    • The (former) winner of the Cross country skiing world cup 2014/2015 tested positive for salbutamol in December 2014 and January 2015 without anyone but the skier, his national federation, FIS and WADA knowing until June 2016, when he lost the case at CAS, after WADA had appealed the ruling of the FIS doping tribunal.

      That gave him 18 months where he was free to race, which results he was allowed to keep, and no pressure from the press or other skiers or fans of the sport.

      He was only disqualified from the two races where he tested positive (but one of them where at the Tour de Ski, which meant he lost the tour win, which meant he lost the world cup 14/15 win).

  16. Thanks for the handy FAQ!

    One more question (even if I guess you don’t know the answer)… what happened to Team Sky’s “zero tolerance policy”? If Froome actually gets a ban, wouldn’t they have to kick him out?

  17. I think the process is the problem. There should be no ability for such a delay in response or enforcement as it completely derails competition in the interim, especially for such a high profile star.

    Froome has as much admitted that he doesn’t have a case, and they are hoping to manufacture one. He should not have been able to ‘prepare a case’ unless he has stated the explanation in full. Otherwise it’s going to be a case of cherry picking.

    It’s all absurd. If you don’t know what happened, then you and your team have failed their duties and should have to accept the penalty and move on. It’s unfortunate, but life goes on and you can go ahead and spend the next year running tests and scenarios for your own sporting usage so it doesn’t happen again (if they even find anything).

    it’s heads I win tails I win in my opinion especially if they will be allowed to dictate the timing of the ban through delays.

    • Should you ever be accused of anything, I imagine you will hope to get time to prepare a defence of yourself. Allow others the same courtesy.

  18. ‘Normally an athlete is stripped of all results but this is the specified substance rules again where the results are lost from the event where he was tested but not subsequent events.’

    The example in the WADA Code seems to contradict this view:

    ‘Facts: An Adverse Analytical Finding results from the presence of
    a stimulant which is a Specified Substance in an In-Competition
    test (Article 2.1) …’

    ‘According to Article 10.8, all results obtained by the Athlete
    subsequent to the date of Sample collection until the start
    of the period of Ineligibility would also be Disqualified unless
    fairness requires otherwise.’

      • Why are you assuming Froome was negligent? As far as I know, he has claimed that he didn’t do anything wrong i.e. he isn’t prepared to admit to any fault or negligence.

        • It seems to me that there are 3 outcomes: (1) he cheated, (2) he was negligent, or (3) he had a physiologically anomalous response to the drug. He seems to be trying to claim the latter. From what I see in the rules, the only way to establish (3) is to do the pharmacokinetic testing and replicate the AAF. This seems unlikely, given his long history of using salbutamol in competition, and reports are that he isn’t going to do the testing. If there is indeed no other way to establish (3), then the choice is down to cheating vs negligence. My question is, if Froome declines to do the tests, and refuses to admit negligence, can the UCI just label him negligent? Or would they throw the book at him?

      • I’m not sure, but I think that according to what the press reported, the “negligence” thing would imply admitting the consequences and not going all-in at the UCI tribunal. If it was true that we’ve gone beyond that step, it’s not comparable to Ulissi.
        Can somebody make this clearer? …Nick? 😉

      • Do we really need to keep appealing to the Ulissi case?

        There were a lot of weird things going on in that case which should not be replicated under the 2015 system with the WADA Code 2015 and the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal.

      • Article 10.1.1 refers specifically to no negligence, not the existence of negligence. And this article is not relevant to 10.8. Article 10.1.1 discusses other results in the same competition, e.g., other stage wins in a GT. Article 8 refers to subsequent competitions.

        • Agreed, it deals with results in other Competitions in the same Event. So if, for instance, a rider tests positive in the TT (a Competition) at the Worlds (an Event), rule 10.1.1 deals with whether they also lose their result from the road race (another Competition at the same Event).

          In the UCI’s own version of the anti-doping rules, a stage race is defined as both a “Competition” (for GC) and an “Event” made up of the individual stages, which are also Competitions in their own right. So *if* Froome is found to have “no fault or negligence”, then he would lose his results from stage 18 and the GC/Points/Combined, because they were all part of the same Competition, but rule 10.1.1 might allow him to keep his wins on Stages 9 & 16, as other Competitions in the same Event. And rule 10.8 should require the removal of his Worlds bronze, and anything he does between now and the decision.

          • Exactly. A rider can be stripped by his or her result in a single stage of a stage race, and you’ll find the word “(only)” in the UCI database beside the corresponding sanction.
            It means that he’ll keep other stage results – nevertheless, he’ll be definitely out of final GC (quite obviously). I think that there are three or four similar cases, Ulissi’s being the most known one. Sorry for quoting Ulissi’s case again ^__^
            … especially given that I consider that it wasn’t the best example ever you’d wish to follow in terms of timing, consistency and rule management; on top of that, it looks like that Froome already opted for a very different strategy (even if we hardly know, actually).

          • So, do we finally have an answer to this question? And are we sure?
            They do like to make their rules opaque.
            Hope you’re right – otherwise it would just be another farcical point in all this.

  19. I enjoy every day of this story because SKY are the dirtiest and sickest team in cycling after Lance era. It’s impossible that they failed this way after years of almost perfect cheating (I’m gonna tell you: no one can win in modern cycling 4 TDFs in 5 years). There were well covered TUEs (discovered by Russian hackers), read: cortisone for Froome and Wiggins although Froome said he never took any TUE. There were many other issues with jiffybags, steroids and His Majesty Brailsford and now it is the end of this cheating orchestra. Even if their lawyers use millions of pounds, the story for the fans in Italy, France and Spain is obvious. And you can buy verdict in court, but you can’t buy the truth. And the most fascinating thing: if they decide to sweep the case under the carpet, they will simply destroy the cycling. And it’s gonna be a suicide for UCI. So the situation is perfect: LIE WILL KILL THE LIER anyway .

  20. I want to see Froome replicate the results in a lab live on TV in front of a studio audience with paid cheerleaders. Hell, he could target the hour record while he’s at it, and Bruyneel should be invited too.

  21. The tests that Froome and Sky intend to carry out together with resulting the paper which could explain the result will never exonerate. All they can hope to do is cast reasonable doubt on the assumption that a direct link can be established between the dose taken and the analytical result. Such a result would free Froome from punishment but no more. On a practical note the roadside, petoton and press reaction in Spain next week will surely guide Sky’s future strategy. Starting in Spain seems like a “foot-in-the-water” action efore moving to France where the anti-Sky movement has always been stronger.

    • Whatever happened to that paper that was going to be published about the Henao case all those year s ago?
      Odd that scientists – whose careers live on publications – wouldn’t publish so high-profile an article.

      • high profile?… on these forums maybe.
        I’d have a guess that they couldn’t really come to any sensible conclusions without enlarging the sample sizes etc passed what made economic sense, and hence it wasn’t worth peer review in a science journal, hence it’s sitting on a shelf somewhere…

        • But they could have had many more interested readers than your average journal would have – there are far more cycling fans than pharmacology fans (even if it sometimes seems like the same thing).
          All findings are valid in science – you don’t have to conclude anything.
          You don’t think it’s at all weird that they didn’t even release their results – not even non-peer reviewed, not even online?

        • With a decent methodology you can pass the peer review with a sample of a handful. And even a single clinical case can find its proper space on Med journals.
          Even without any conclusive result in your hands.
          I’m not saying that’s something I like or appreciate but that’s the current way of the world in many (most?) of those journals – especially in some sectors.
          Not to speak of the very basic fact that most journals will accept your article… along with your money. That’s not cheap if your department isn’t pretty wealthy (a couple of months of a researcher’s wage in Italy), but it’s well within what could make *economic sense* for Team Sky.
          Having money, which can also translate into a paid writing staff, and not being able to publish just means that you’re not interested, or you’ve got no actual research – or the research is petty *beyond imagination*: yes, you can see every sort of laughable stuff published (and that’s not necessarily wrong, even if…), but you can also see stuff which is just plain wrong and everybody knows that… as a journal, you’ll just retire it later if somebody complains, and note that *you’ll generally keep the money* (that sounds less acceptable, indeed).
          It’s to be seen if Sky considered that such research actually didn’t matter, given that they had the political support not to need it, or there just wasn’t any research at all.
          In case they did it but they really didn’t get anywhere, anywhere at all, well… why Henao came back to racing with their zero tolerance team if his anomalous values weren’t eventually being explained?

  22. One FAQ is missing is should this story be in the public domain at all? (aren’t these types of “failed” tests resolved in private without all the publicity of failed A/B tests we generally hear about)

    • I’d say they should all be in the public domain: more openness might just lead to the sport looking at its attitudes towards drugs, due to adverse public opinion.
      Secrecy leads to a lack of public confidence, conspiracy theories and the ability of the sport to keep its over-use of (permissible) drugs quiet.

    • As mentioned above in reply to CA, in 2015 we saw 5086 samples collected for cycling and of these 72 adverse analytical findings (aka positives) and of these 13 didn’t result in a suspension (8 for “medical reasons”, 3 for “no case to answer” and 2 for “no sanction”). Should it be public? Perhaps but equally the moment a rider was announced or suspended only for it to turn out they were cleared for good reasons we can imagine the front page headlines announcing their suspensions and then the small paragraph stating they were cleared.

  23. Two perhaps not-so-obvious things bother me about this mess. The first is “then one side can appeal in a civil court, the verdict risks being overturned.” This should be dealt with on the rider’s and teams license applications – the decision of the CAS is final! Nobody is making these riders jump through flaming hoops, if they don’t want to play the SPORT by the rules they can go paint houses.
    The second is the idea that Froome somehow didn’t excrete any of the PED in his urine only to excrete what seems to be double the amount the next day. Who cares? The rule doesn’t say anything about “the average amount excreted should not exceed X” as the rules apply to both stage races and single day events. The athlete has been held accountable for banned substances in his/her body so unless Froome and Sky can prove some nefarious actors held the guy down and forced him to inject, swallow or inhale more than the limits he should simply be banned. Six months from being notified of the issue should be more than enough time to hand over your excuse and this mess should be done with and Froome sanctioned long before any of the real racing begins.
    If the UCI/CAS, etc. can’t get this done in a timely fashion, the riders should take matters into their own hands with a boycott. Failing both, they all may face the wrath of the fans at the roadside.
    I’ll limit mine to boos, whistles and middle fingers to Froome, SKY and Co. at the Giro but I fear others might not be as reserved… we’ve seen in the past.

    • I agree, 6-months and this is not resolved is nuts. I understand Inrng’s comments that the relevant anti-doping panels/committees do not sit that often and that these issues involve back and forth, etc. However, that’s the point.

      It is not reasonable to allow the public to sit on this. It does extreme damage to the sport, the concept of fair sport, and to the clean riders who did nothing wrong.

      Under extenuating circumstances, it is always possible for legal proceedings in a civil/criminal court to expedite matters. In this case, a sporting tribunal can do the same to expedite this type of case. As soon as the arguably highest profile athlete in the sport was tested positive, emergency tribunals should have convened, Froome’s legal team should have been given very clear and definitive deadlines (he and Sky have the resources for a legal and expert team to work 2-weeks of all-nighters) and this should have been resolved by Christmas. It is a JOKE that it is still going on and hurts everyone.

      • Do they? It’s the Court of Arbitration for SPORT last time I checked. They don’t get involved with murders and other crimes. When any sports person takes out a license they should agree that CAS is the last and final decision in any case involving sport. None of the “Oh, my human rights were violated!” BS. If you don’t like it, go paint houses and leave sport to those who play by the rules.

          • Are you claiming RULES and LAWS are one in the same? I’m trying to separate the sporting rules (as in you can’t use PED’s, a motorcycle, etc. in bicycle races) vs criminal or civil laws (you can’t kill people, steal their money, etc.)
            Things get muddy if someone can claim their right-to-work or other human rights are infringed upon if they’re tossed out of the sport for cheating. IMHO that should NOT happen and everyone participating in sport should agree that CAS is the final word, otherwise the sport falls victim to cheats with big budgets for lawyers who endlessly argue workplace or human rights issues that should have nothing to do with whether their client cheated or didn’t.

          • I’m saying that they overlap. Because the relationship between governing bodies and athletes are covered by the laws that govern contracts, because the procedural rules for CAS are covered by the laws that govern how tribunals must conduct themselves (specifically the Swiss rules), and because sports governing bodies aren’t outside the law of their respective lands. To take an extreme example, the UCI couldn’t have a rule banning black cyclists from WT events, because it would be illegal in several of the countries they operate in.

          • Sportspeople and CAS members do not absolve themselves from international LAW because they work in sport. A simple fact thats often ignored.

          • Well, here’s the thing. Many employment contracts absolve themselves from specific codes of labour laws. And, yes, technically each employment contract for the riders must follow the laws governing their teams’ ownership company. But, let’s be realistic, it’s impossible to enforce those rules for athletes.

            Secondly, UCI/WADA’s drug testing policy would be hard to enforce under US labour laws. However, once again it’s a massive grey area.

            So, with that being said, yes CAS has to “follow the law”, but that’s a very complicated term and hard to be specific about.

            J Evans – it’s not possible to have a black and white policy, as soon as you move the bar, the athletes move right along with it. If we’re all adults, I think we can agree this will NEVER be simple process.

          • CA, it would be perfectly possible for there to be a rule that says you’re banned if you’re over the limit: in this case – 1,000 units of salbutamol.
            And you can do this with all PEDs. (As Larry points out, it’s a sport with rules – this would be one of the rules.)
            It’s already done with many PEDs.
            There’d be no debate and no excuses – no lengthy ongoing processes, no Impey-style let-offs.
            (This particular case would be black and white: you’re over the limit, this is the ban.)
            They should also make public any positive test for PEDs. There’s no need for secrecy.
            The riders would have to agree to this or not partake in the sport. (They virtually do that now anyway.)
            That’s all I’m advocating.
            It doesn’t break any laws or violate any human rights.
            Nor does it restrict anyone from receiving medical treatment.
            Nor does it breach doctor/patient confidentiality.
            I hope I’ve covered everything for the Helen Lovejoys (not you, CA).

    • Have the same rules for all drugs.
      If you’re over the limit, you’re banned.
      It’s your problem how that happened.
      (If you have kidney failure for one day that’s bad luck – as well as being miraculous.)
      The limit is already ridiculously high – you have to make sure you stay under it. As with drunk driving, that is 100% your responsibility. (Yeah, yeah, they have to treat their ‘asthma’ – the limit is high enough for them to treat their asthma: it’s actually far higher than what they need to treat their asthma.)
      That gets rid of all this garbage.
      The bottom line is, if you don’t want to risk a ban, don’t take the drug.

  24. Dear inrng and readers,

    sorry for the wild OT but I stumbled again on something a reader wrote in the “sexism and podium girl” debate which shouldn’t be left without a proper answer.

    I passed over the guy (and prompted others to do so) because it was the only thing his commentary was worth of, but then news from Italy reached me with a couple of weeks of delay and it all made me quite upset.
    The guy culminated his nonsense about the Hollywood abuse scandals with this line: “no equivalent, poisonous abuse of women has permeated cycling (but I could be wrong)”.

    Yes, you’re wrong. And I deem it essential that such a mistake stops spreading *now*.

    I just became aware that after *two years* of investigation, an Italian cycling manager got a life ban because of sexual abuse on at least a girl he was training. It’s an utterly sad story which I won’t report in detail, but it also happens in cycling – it couldn’t be otherwise.
    Dutch cycling as an open investigation ongoing.
    And we certainly remember about sexism within Bristish cycling.
    Another rampant cycling country whose miracle starts to be tainted like UK’s? Poland.
    “A recent audit launched by the current president Dariusz Banaszek has brought to light not only proof of financial malpractice by a ‘key figure in the cycling environment’ but also allegations of sexual misconduct, including rape and sexual intercourse with [female] riders, some allegedly while those riders were minors”. Just a few months ago on CN.
    Genevieve Jeanson from Canada was psychologically and physically abused by her trainer since she was 14.
    USA National Champion Missy Erickson recently spoke out about her history of being sexually abused by a coaching figure when she still was a minor.

    And that’s just part of what I happen to know which is just a little part of what actually happens.

    Again, sorry for the OT, but when somebody commented the Italian events I went back to that discussion and felt that it’s not acceptable that people go around saying “this doesn’t happen in cycling”. It’s not enough to add that “you could be wrong”. The news were on every mainstream cycling media – and sometimes even beyond. Not noticing, not remembering, not caring, in short *full denial mode* is a significant part of the problem.

    I hope that, although wildly OT and on a (rightly) “blocked” subject, this is acceptable to inrng and fellow readers. Ideal would be moving it to the next discussion. Full stop for me.

  25. Article 10.8 of the WADA Code says all results from the time of the positive are disqualified, “unless fairness requires otherwise”. If Froome was the one delaying, why would fairness require that these results not be disqualified? Fairness to whom?

  26. The ‘Simon Yates’ defence looks the most satisfactory for Sky, assuming they cannot give reason for the high levels.

    Sky take responsibility after the Tour, Froome gets the Winter off and Sky (their fault) are happy to keep him on the roster for 2019.

    The defence, just swap the names and races……
    “It has been an unfortunate break due to circumstances that Simon cannot be blamed, but above all, we are happy that is has now come to a conclusion.

    The Orica-GreenEdge rider tested positive for Terbtalin in the final stage of the Paris-Nice race with the team doctor failing to apply for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).

    At the time Orica-GreenEdge released a statement regarding the positive test explaining it took full responsibility. The UCI confirmed the case and clarified that because Terbutaline does not spark a provisional suspension, Yates was free to continue to race until any eventual sanction is decided but has not raced since April. He was left out of the Criterium du Dauphine squad earlier this month but the team had hoped he could ride the Tour de France before his eventual sanction.

    Orica-GreenEdge released a statement following the UCI’s announcement that read, “Simon has been given a four-month sanction by the UCI given the administrative error in not having a required TUE for his asthma inhaler at Paris-Nice,” said general manager Shayne Bannan.

    “The team has taken full responsibility for this all along and we look forward to seeing Simon back racing.

    “It has been an unfortunate break due to circumstances that Simon cannot be blamed, but above all, we are happy that is has now come to a conclusion.”

    • Asat Sky they still deny knowing or even being close to understanding what’s happened, it’s hard for them to assume the fault of it as any sort of “administrative error”.

      Well, unless we start to think about the different meanings of “to administer” 😛

      • “As at Sky they still deny knowing or even being close to understanding what’s happened, it’s hard for them to assume the fault of it as any sort of “administrative error.”

        They are investigating……who knows what they may ‘find’……and admin error is one possibility that could give satisfaction to all……

      • Gabriele, the words “Judge, jury and executioner” spring to mind.

        It seems odd that if Froome had gotten a T.U.E. all this need never have happened.
        Which raises the possibility that have T.U.E.s become so tainted / toxic a subject in themselves, that riders (and particularly Froome, given Sky’s recent history) do not wish to be associated with them?
        T.U.E.s are available for a purpose, even if their use may have been abused in the past, and remain a part of all sport, like it or not.

        It could have been a foul up on Sky’s behalf, for which Froome will rightly pay the price, or just maybe there is a valid medical reason. I know lots of cycling fans of course do not wish to consider this, Froome has been hung, drawn and quartered on the forums already.

        • Balance of probability is what I’m judging him on – what is most likely to have happened.

          I think it’s most unlikely that he would knowingly take a dose that was going to put him over the limit and not get a TUE for that, instead knowingly risk failing the test. Getting a TUE might look bad, but not as bad as this.

          Then you ask what was he doing that meant he couldn’t apply for a TUE? Or, did he think he could get by – with help from friends in high places, perhaps – with a positive test?
          Just questions: I have no answers, but I also don’t believe the highly unlikely theories put forward thus far to explain his possible innocence.

          • Judging from what Brailsford has said they seem to have thought that this wouldn’t become public. Therefore they probably believed that they could deal with it legally and Froome race on without out anyone ever knowing about it. The fact that Froome raced the worlds as normal and announced his presence at the Giro with a bit of fanfare would support this. So they could have thought it was worth getting the fail. Quite why or how Brialsford would think this would stay private when relatively minor details about the delivery of jiffy bags and Armistead sleeping in on testing day become public knowledge I don’t know.

          • @Richard S
            I haven’t read the Brailsford interview you quote, which means I could be misunderstanding something, but the funny thing is that “what happened”, what he just calls (in your words) *this* or *it*, isn’t being spoken out yet. How did he suppose he could deal with something if he allegedly hasn’t the slightest idea of what *it* is? It’s a no-thing. Truth is that, if Brailsford position is really such, it makes me feel like he counted on cover-up, and strongly so, as if he was used to. Which wouldn’t surprise me, either. Actually, it’s far from being the most far-fetched hypothesis around (stress on *hypothesis*).

        • Unless he proves otherwise, Froome took a dosis of salbutamol which looks hugely beyond what’s needed for therapeutic use and well into the field of its performance enhancing effects.
          Which means that – was that the case – according to the rules no TUE was going to be allowed whatsoever, and rightly so.
          Good ol’ Zorzoli isn’t around anymore, as far as I know.
          Yes, perhaps they could find some other helpful UCI officials, but such behaviour wouldn’t look any better to me.

          However, my point is that it makes little sense to admit an administrative error while you still deny knowing what’s actually happened and go on saying you followed the rules.
          If they told us in the first place that they broke the rules and exactly how, then they could try to explain themselves citing TUEphobia or whatever.

          Sure, there’s a certain degree of TUEphobia or misoTUEism around which make some riders avoiding getting a TUE sometimes (you might remember what Wellens recently said, or even try googling “Nibali wasp sting 2013”). Yet, it’s nothing new, and several teams and riders were against such abuse of TUEs even before the Sky cortisone scandal broke out. Notably the MPCC, which Sky snubbed because “they were too mild against doping when compared with us”.
          All the same, Froome himself was receiving a fast-tracked TUE the year *after* the Nibali accident had opened the debate once more. Only when the Zorzoli episod had become public and troublesome, Froome showed himself as more timid about TUEs, with the self-praising story about his stoic refusal at the 2015 Tour or the opinions on Wiggins.

          But what was Froome saying to the Times one week after “winning” the Vuelta?
          “We should never say never – that would be bonkers – but I can’t see when I would take one now,” he told The Times. “At the 2015 Tour it became very difficult. I’m asthmatic and had a chest infection…”.
          Curious! He’d never say never, which means he still wouldn’t exclude a TUE in a serious case. He adds that he can’t see when he could take on now, which is even more peculiar if he just had hard times for health reasons. And, in fact, he cites once more the 2015 TdF.
          The perfect occasion to speak about his “chest infection” or whatever at the Vuelta, the doubts about asking for a TUE and the ultimate decision not to… Not a word!

          In short, if they administered such a dosis, probably not via inhaler, for “a valid medical reason”… well, they’d know it, wouldn’t they? When you *do things for a valid reason*, you usually know both what you did and the reason.
          But this is not their narrative, is it?

          Let me conclude being utterly clear: I’m surely entitled to be jury and judge, and executioner too, in the field of my personal opinion, at least as long as I’m aware, as I believe I am, that it’s just personal opinion and where are the boundaries between personal opinions and proven facts, with only the latter needing to be sanctioned by a public court. Opinions will just produce a sanction within my personal memory as a cycling fan about the real value of an athlete, but there won’t be any effect on his or her palmarés.
          I’ve been having a personal opinion about Sky for years. It’s still more or less the same. It always was fluid and quite blurred, open to change or correction, as any opinion should be when based on probability and inference. I also consider (but I could be wrong) that in any public context – as this website is – I’ve been reasonably sober on the subject. Yet, as time goes by, more and more factual elements surface to support that opinion which hence becomes more stable.
          Frankly, I wouldn’t compare it to a tribunal but to a normal hypothetical process in science. And good science is appreciated because of its interpretative and predictive power, not because it states the obvious ex post facto…

  27. Was the lab that handled the case one of the labs that had to be recertified because it lost its certification? Was Froome’s failed test known among UCI insiders and did it have an affect on the vote to elect the new UCI president?

  28. Y’all know me. You know where my cards are on the table. My view is Froome is just playing for time. He’ll drag it on past the Tour and then take what’s coming to him, from his point of view hopefully having won 4 grand tours in a row. This was probably his last good year at the top anyway. Look through history, all the great multiple grand tour winners from Merckx, Hinault and Anquetil down to Contador and Indurain, had a great series of wins. But once they couldn’t win anymore they never won again. Its a steep cliff to drop off. Froome is on the edge of that cliff now. This would have (possibly) been his greatest year but the only thing I worry about now is some fan will run out and take him down and make it impossible for him to race. Its a sad end. But does any one REALLY think Froome has been cheating with AN INHALER? It beggars belief.

    • “But does any one REALLY think Froome has been cheating with AN INHALER? It beggars belief. ”
      To me the entire fantasy/myth/charade that is SKY “beggars belief”.
      I wonder if 10 years from now the entire SKY era will be considered similar to the last one dominated by a loudmouthed group who bragged about transparency and how clean they were, but ended with their star rider banned from the sport for life?

      • There’s no danger of that: there’s a world of difference between what Sky seem to have been doing – pushing right to the very edge of what’s allowed – and what went on in the Armstrong era

    • No, almost no-one thinks that Froome has been cheating with an inhaler.
      People have seen how Sky operate, they’ve seen that ‘marginal gains’ means ‘doing anything we can get away with’.
      Almost no-one believes that he took one (or eight) too many puffs on his inhaler.

    • Saying that “once you can’t win anymore, you never win again” sounds a bit like a lapallissade.

      To make sense of it, I tried to interpret the sentence like “once you aren’t able anymore to win a GT, you never win again anything relevant at all”, but that doesn’t work well, either.

      Both Indurain and Hinault quickly retired after having their last *dominant* year (yes, albeit dominant, you already noticed cracks in the armour), plus just one further season. Yet, in that very last season they were able to win at the top level: Indurain got the Dauphiné and the Olympic ITT gold, Hinault won some minor stage race, too, but was especially impressive at the TdF which he ended up a menacing second behind his teammate LeMond, winning stages in the process.

      Merckx went on racing a couple of years once he wasn’t that competitive anymore in GTs: it was a fast yet gradual thing, from winning to second place, to top-tens.
      However, he was going on with “modest” feats like winning three Monumenst the very same year (Sanremo, Flanders and Liège, to which he added Amstel) or, the following year, winning again in Sanremo and the GC at Volta a Catalunya (plus stages here and there). Even in his, frankly mediocre, last season he still won, even if it was just stages at Romandie or Suisse.

      Anquetil went on even longer than Merckx after his last GT wins, and he was still able to podium in GTs, for a couple of seasons more. Meanwhile, he was also winning a Liège, a couple of Pa-Ni, Dauphiné, Catalunya… and, in his very last season, the País Vasco.

      And Contador, well, he won his last race, I think.

      Then, I tried to understand the concept in the sense of “not being able to win a GT again if your series as a multiple GT winners gets interrupted”. In fact, it’s obvious that once you win your last GT you won’t win any other GT – or it wouldn’t be “the last one”! And it more or less works only with *two* riders (whereas you could also add other great comeback heroes like Bartali, Coppi or LeMond for the TdF or Gimondi and Fignon if you include the Giro, too).

      Anquetil had to wait two years after his first Tour before he won a GT again, and one more year to win again the TdF. Let’s say that the curious event was his first win, agreed. But what about Hinault? A sum of factors including physical woes had him having his last good GT in the early 1983 Spring. In two years, the only couple of relevant races he won were a Lombardia and, hmmm, the TdF *prologue*. Yet, he came back to win the Giro and the Tour again.
      Contador, no need to say that, won GTs again after his series was broken in 2013 by a very bad year (his worst one).
      The only two riders who indeed had their GT wins concentrated in a single block were Indurain and Merckx, even if both stayed competitive at the top lever for one or two more years before retiring.
      If we focus on the TdF only, we might exclude Contador who didn’t win again after 2010, but we should hence consider that Merckx called it a blank year in 1973.

      All in all, I might agree on something very vague like “the downward final part of the curve can be steeper than you might expect (but *what* do we expect, exactly?).
      Yet, examining the riders you name what I frankly notice is, more than anything… a certain variety of situations. However, nobody of them drops from champ to cr*p.
      Sometimes, one even feels that a psychological factor – leaving behind good memories as the last ones or not being motivated unless you aim for the top – could be the decisive one, more than any sudden physical limitation.

  29. The suggestion today from Dave Brailsford was that the relevant rule is actually concerned with how much Salbutamol an athlete can ingest in any 24 hour period not how much is excreted in their urine. Is that the case? If that is correct then presumably if CF can “prove” exactly how much he ingested and if that amount is within the permitted limit the urine test is irrelevant? Seems very odd to me given that the only real way to test the athletes is to measure levels of various substances in their bodies not debate how many puffs or pills they have taken.

    • It’s both, there’s a permitted amount and there’s the urine test, the test triggering the investigation. Sky could show medical notes from the period but obviously if someone was cheating they could take more or fake documentation etc so this brings us to the Ulissi defence again which involves saying “I admit being over the limit in the urine test but don’t know how it happened, I thought I took less than the maximum limit” which in short is pleading negligence.

      • The list gives a threshold of
        “•Inhaled salbutamol: maximum 1600 micrograms over 24 hours;
        in divided doses not to exceed 800 micrograms over 12 hours starting from any dose;”
        But also says
        “The presence in urine of salbutamol in excess of 1000 ng/mL … 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 a therapeutic dose (by inhalation) up to the maximum dose indicated above.”

        So as well as the documentation (fake or otherwise) the rider needs to carry out a study showing how a legal dose can result in too high a urine reading. And in Froome’s case, presumably show why this was only the case on one particular stage.

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