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by Shane Stokes
July 2, 2018
The World Anti-Doping Agency has commented on the decision to clear Chris Froome of an Adverse Analytical Finding involving excessive levels of Salbutamol, confirming Monday’s announcement while essentially admitting that it didn’t follow its own regulations in doing so.
On Monday morning the UCI announced that it and WADA had concluded that Chris Froome didn’t have a case to answer, and would not be sanctioned for exceeding the allowed threshold during last year’s Vuelta a España.
WADA confirmed the UCI’s announcement, and said that, “based on careful consideration of the facts, the Agency accepts that the analytical result of Mr. Froome’s sample from 7 September 2017 during the Vuelta a España, which identified the prohibited substance Salbutamol at a concentration in excess of the decision limit of 1200 ng/mL(1), did not constitute an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF).”
It noted that its 2017 Prohibited List notes that Salbutamol is a prohibited specified substance, but one which is permitted under strict limits as to the level of its use. WADA stated that the maximum ingestion dose is 1600 micrograms over a 24 hour period, and that competitors cannot exceed 800 micrograms every 12 hours.
If Salbutamol is reported in a urine sample in a concentration in excess of the decision limit of 1200 ng/mL(1), it said that the Prohibited List provides that it “is presumed not to be an intended therapeutic use of the substance and will be considered as an AAF unless the athlete proves, through a controlled pharmacokinetic study (CPKS), that the abnormal result was the consequence of the use of the therapeutic dose (by inhalation) up to the maximum dose indicated above.”
However, in clarifying how it came to a decision, the agency said that it dropped the requirement for the controlled pharmacokinetic study.
It laid out its conclusions in point form, namely:
1. Based on a number of factors that are specific to the case of Mr. Froome — including, in particular, a significant increase in dose, over a short period prior to the doping control, in connection with a documented illness; as well as, demonstrated within-subject variability in the excretion of Salbutamol — WADA concluded that the sample result was not inconsistent with the ingestion of inhaled Salbutamol within the permitted maximum dose.
2. WADA recognizes that, in rare cases, athletes may exceed the decision limit concentration (of 1200 ng of Salbutamol per ml of urine) without exceeding the maximum inhaled dose. This is precisely why the Prohibited List allows for athletes that exceed the decision limit to demonstrate, typically through a controlled pharmacokinetic study (CPKS) as permitted by the Prohibited List, that the relevant concentration is compatible with a permissible, inhaled dose.
3. In Mr. Froome’s case, WADA accepts that a CPKS would not have been practicable as it would not have been possible to adequately recreate the unique circumstances that preceded the 7 September doping control (e.g. illness, use of medication, chronic use of Salbutamol at varying doses over the course of weeks of high intensity competition).
WADA said that having reviewed the rider’s explanations and considering what it said were ‘the unique circumstances of his case,’ it said that it accepted that:
– the sample result is not inconsistent with an ingestion of Salbutamol within the permitted maximum inhaled dose;
– an adequate CPKS is not practicable; and
– the sample may be considered not to be an AAF.
However, although WADA said that Team Sky had provided explanations supported by expert opinions to the UCI in June, information intended to back up Froome’s version of events, and that the agency had engaged in ‘thorough consultation with internal and independent external experts,’ it didn’t give any further details.
Instead, WADA concluded by saying that it “believes this to be the right and fair outcome for what was a very complex case.”
Meanwhile Tour de France race director Christian Prudhomme has confirmed that race organiser ASO has dropped its decision to prevent Froome from riding the Tour. On Sunday French newspaper Le Monde announced that ASO would block the rider under Article 29 of its regulations.
These rules state that the company ‘expressly reserves the right to refuse participation in – or to exclude from – the event, a team or any of its members whose presence would be such as to damage the image or reputation of ASO or the event.’
In light of the UCI/WADA decision, Prudhomme told L’Equipe that this situation no longer applied.
“Chris Froome will be at the start of the Tour. The fact is that the procedure about the damage to the image of the race is obsolete as the sporting authorities have indicated that he wasn’t at fault. That’s it. He will be at the depart of the Tour de France as the UCI and WADA have finally given their answer.”
However Prudhomme made clear that he was not happy with how long it took to get that answer.
“All that for this,” he said. “We have been constantly repeating, since we became aware of the abnormal control like everyone else on December 13, that a quick response was needed. I first spoke as president of the AIOCC (International Association of Race Organizers), on behalf of all organizers, because the presence of Chris Froome could pose questions for all race organizers. As the months go by, I’ve been on it all the time, anyway.
“After, at the beginning of June, David Lappartient, the president of the International Cycling Union, in at least one interview, said that there would be no answer before the Tour, whereas until then the indications had been rather the contrary. And so we decided, three weeks ago, because we needed the response of an independent authority, to write to Chris Froome, Sky and the UCI to tell them that we would use Article 29 of the Tour de France regulations [about protecting the image of the race]. We did not communicate [publicly] on that because we did not want to throw oil on the fire. This information came out yesterday, it was authentic, and today is the answer we had been waiting for six months.
“It comes at the last moment, it’s a shame, and it is especially sad that it took – even if I can understand that the experts of the World Anti-Doping Agency, the UCI and the lawyers of Chris Froome have worked hard – a wait for months because the non-response during all this time has obviously caused indecision, doubt and therefore suspicion. That’s where we are.
“The answer comes at the last moment, when we ourselves started a procedure to get an answer from an independent sports authority.”
UCI drops investigation into Froome, says it accepts no rules were broken in Salbutamol case