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Vuelta a Espana runner-up Vincenzo Nibali has reacted with dismay to the news of Chris Froome’s adverce analytical finding for salbutamol, saying that if the Briton is disqualified from the race inheriting the title will not be the same.
“It is certainly bad news for the sport and also for me,” he told Tuttobici on Wednesday. “If the positive case is confirmed, no one would give me back the thrill of winning the Vuelta again and climbing to the highest step on the podium in Madrid.”
The news of Froome’s test result broke early on Wednesday. The Guardian newspaper had been told by sources that the Briton was over the legal threshold for the asthma drug salbutamol. According to the rules of the World Anti Doping Agency, that threshold is set at 1,000 nanograms per millilitre. The doping control sample provided by Froome on September 7 had values double this amount.
Predictably, Froome’s Team Sky has tried to play the matter down. “The notification of the test finding does not mean that any rule has been broken,” it said, despite suspensions in the past for riders who were above WADA’s threshold.
“The finding triggers requests from the UCI which are aimed at establishing what caused the elevated concentration of Salbutamol and to ensure that no more than the permissible doses of Salbutamol were inhaled.”
Froome said that he upped the use of his inhaler at medical advice. “My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my Salbutamol dosage. As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose.”
However returning values double the permitted threshold is very serious and could result in the loss of his Vuelta title, his world road race championship time trial bronze medal plus a lengthy suspension.