Chris Froome clears the air over doping saga in open letter


IN an incredible open letter to the French public and wider cycling community, Chris Froome, on the eve of the Tour de France, moved to clarify the doping saga that has plagued his lead-up to the race.

Penning the letter in French daily newspaper Le Monde, four-time Tour de France winner Froome seemed to apologise to the hosts for the confusion and bad press the saga had caused, while revealing how the events unfolded.


media_cameraChris Froome cleared the air with an open letter to the French public. Picture: AFP

“I meant it when I stood on the podium on the Champs Elysee and said I would never dishonour the yellow jersey and my results would stand the test of time. I won’t – and they will. I love this sport. I am passionate about the Tour. To win any race based on a lie would – for me be a personal defeat. I could never let that happen,” Froome wrote.

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“Like everyone I am counting down the hours until the Tour starts. The Grand Depart is one of my favourite days of the year. It’s the moment when the whole of France starts to create the unique magic that is the Tour. And I can’t wait to compete again on cycling’s most beautiful stage in front of its most passionate fans.”

Froome recorded an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for salbutamol, an asthma medication, meaning he exceeded the allowed dose of a permitted substance during the Vuelta a Espana last year

READ FROOME’S FULL OPEN LETTER IN LE MONDE BELOW

But the Brit was cleared to ride in Le Tour following the conclusion of an investigation into an abnormal test sample.

Froome gave a lengthy review of the testing and review processing, revealing how his confidential Adverse Analytical Finding result was leaked.

“I know many of you will not have been following the detail of the case so I wanted to set out the facts very simply so you can reach your own judgments,” Froome continued.


media_cameraChris Froome on the podium in 2017. Picture: AFP

“I have suffered with asthma since childhood and, like millions of asthmatics, I use a Salbutamol inhaler to help manage the symptoms. Towards the end of the Vuelta I experienced acute worsening of my asthma and increased the number of puffs under medical guidance.

“This was not an anti-doping violation or a positive test rather what is called a presumed Adverse Analytical Finding. It is supposed to be confidential. Any athlete in these circumstances is given the opportunity to explain how this might have happened before a judgement is reached. Every year, other athletes are notified of AAFs, explain them and have the issue dropped. The difference in my case is that this confidential process was unfortunately leaked and became public.”

Froome’s clearance to ride in the great race has been polarising one, with a thousand-strong police presence set to follow the Team Sky king around France.

Head of the International Cycling Union (UCI), David Lappartient, was forced to denounced calls for ‘violence’ during the three-week event while the French government said that it would deploy all means necessary to guarantee security.

CHRIS FROOME’S FULL OPEN LETTER IN LE MONDE

“On Saturday the greatest annual sports event in the world starts in the Vendee Pays de la Loire. I am proud to start the Tour as the defending champion and will obviously be fighting hard to win the maillot jaune.

But I also recognise that the build up to this race has not been the easiest – for me, for the race organisers and for you all – the cycling fans and people of France who are the heartbeat of the Tour.

An abnormal reading for my asthma medication from last year’s Vuelta in Spain raised legitimate questions – not least from me. Monday’s decision from cycling’s governing body the UCI and from WADA (the World Anti-Doping Agency) confirmed that I had done nothing wrong. I hope that this helps lift the shadow of doubt. Most importantly it draws a line that allows us all to focus on bike racing.

That said I recognise there are complex issues involved that cannot be boiled down into a single sentence. I know the French public are fair minded. I know many of you will not have been following the detail of the case so I wanted to set out the facts very simply so you can reach your own judgments.

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I have suffered with asthma since childhood and, like millions of asthmatics, I use a Salbutamol inhaler to help manage the symptoms. Towards the end of the Vuelta I experienced acute worsening of my asthma and increased the number of puffs under medical guidance. I know exactly what the rules are and how many puffs I am allowed to take. I also know I am going to be tested at the end of every stage when I am in the leader’s jersey – indeed, I was tested 23 times during the Vuelta. And it is also worth pointing out that there is no performance benefit from using an asthma inhaler. It is purely a medical treatment.

A few weeks later I was notified that one reading was higher than all the others and above the WADA limit. This was not an anti-doping violation or a positive test rather what is called a presumed Adverse Analytical Finding. It is supposed to be confidential. Any athlete in these circumstances is given the opportunity to explain how this might have happened before a judgement is reached. Every year, other athletes are notified of AAFs, explain them and have the issue dropped. The difference in my case is that this confidential process was unfortunately leaked and became public.

Of course when that happened it was inevitable that some people would rush to judgement. It is always difficult for someone who knows they have done nothing wrong to have their integrity questioned. That said I am a realist. I know the history of the sport, good and bad – and I would be the last to complain about scrutiny.

The UCI’s decision to exonerate me was reached after nine months of careful analysis. Whilst it took a lot longer than anyone would ideally have wanted, it has meant that our scientists and the WADA and UCI experts have all had the chance to look at everything in detail. The time it has taken should give everyone confidence of just how thoroughly they have done their job.


media_cameraChris Froome passes the Arc de Triomphe. Picture: AP

So after the UCI / WADA decision what do we know? First and most importantly we know that it is possible to take the same amount of Salbutamol every day and to have very different readings. There doesn’t seem to be a reliable correlation between what you inhale and what you excrete. We also know that a reading can be significantly affected by dehydration. I was not twice the limit as has been reported. Rather, I was just under 20% over, after dehydration was taken into account.

It was interesting to hear one of the scientists responsible for creating the Salbutamol regulations for WADA express his concerns this week about the wider risk of false positives after my case was dismissed. There are issues that do need to be looked at urgently – and I am sure they will be – as nobody wants other clean athletes to be faced with a similar situation. I would welcome the publication by WADA of the scientific studies they relied on both to create the current testing regime and to exonerate me. I am sure these will help everyone understand the complexities of the case and the risk of false positives for all athletes who suffer from asthma and use Salbutamol to manage their symptoms.

I meant it when I stood on the podium on the Champs Elysee and said I would never dishonour the yellow jersey and my results would stand the test of time. I won’t – and they will. I love this sport. I am passionate about the Tour. To win any race based on a lie would – for me be a personal defeat. I could never let that happen.

Like everyone I am counting down the hours until the Tour starts. The Grand Depart is one of my favourite days of the year. It’s the moment when the whole of France starts to create the unique magic that is the Tour. And I can’t wait to compete again on cycling’s most beautiful stage in front of its most passionate fans.”

Froome’s open letter was originally published in French newspaper Le Monde



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