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It’s a month a half since the news emerged of Chris Froome’s salbutamol case but, despite suggestions it could take up to a year to resolve, it now seems to be moving somewhat closer to a decision.
According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the UCI’s Legal Anti-Doping Services (LADS) has passed on the case to the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal, thus moving it to the next step.
On December 13 The Guardian and Le Monde revealed that a urine sample provided by Froome after stage 18 contained twice the maximum permitted level of salbutamol. He could face a lengthy ban plus the loss of his Vuelta a Espana title.
Five days after that news, the UCI clarified the anti-doping process in a statement which appeared to be intended – in part at least – to lay out how things could proceed in relation to Froome’s case.
It said in that statement that the LADS is a specialised unit independent from UCI Management, and that it conducts a summary analysis of the documentation accompanying the Adverse Analytical Finding.
Once that is done its role sees it notifying the rider, his/her national federation plus their national anti-doping organisation, as well as WADA and the UCI.
“Upon notification, the rider can ask for his/her B sample to be analysed,” wrote the UCI in that statement. “If the B sample analysis confirms the result of the A sample, or if the rider does not request the opening of the B sample, the LADS gives the rider the opportunity to provide an explanation for the Adverse Analytical Finding.
“The LADS will then open disciplinary proceedings and offer the rider an “Acceptance of Consequences” taking into account the rider’s explanations, if any. If the rider refuses the Acceptance of Consequences, the matter is referred to the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal for adjudication.”
According to La Gazzetta’s sources, this latter step has now occurred. What is noteworthy is that this week fellow Italian publication Corriere della Sera claimed that Froome’s wife Michelle had advised him to consider such an Acceptance of Consequences. Essentially, this would be a plea bargain whereby he would accept that he made an error and, in return, face a reduced sanction.
Tuesday’s Corriere della Sera story suggested that he could be given a backdated ban of just six to nine months, thus potentially being able to ride either the Giro d’Italia (in the case of the six month ban) or the Tour de France.
However, soon after that story was published, Froome rejected its accuracy via Twitter. “I have seen the report in Corriere della Sera this morning – it’s completely untrue.”
If he rejected rather than agreed to an acceptance of consequences, that would sync with La Gazzetta’s suggestion now that the case has moved to the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal.
The newspaper says that until now the case has been at the ‘expert debate’ stage, where documents are exchanged between those defending the case and LADS. La Gazzetta states that LADS is then able to either acquit the rider or propose a sanction (presumably, the Acceptance of Consequences). It says that after weeks of discussions LADS has now handed it over to the Anti-Doping Tribunal, and that a single judge will make a ruling on the case.
It is not yet clear when that will happen.
As of now, Froome has not accepted a voluntary suspension. This would likely mean that any ban would run from the moment a ruling is made rather than being backdated to last September.