Froome’s salbutamol case led to spat between the UCI and WADA

Chris Froome (GBR/SKY) ©kramon

by Dane Cash

photography by Kristof Ramon


A report published by BBC Sport on Tuesday shed light on a spat between the UCI and WADA that arose in the aftermath of Chris Froome’s salbutamol case.

Emails between UCI President David Lappartient and then-WADA president Craig Reedie show tensions between the organizations caused by the handling of that case.

Remind me, what happened in the Froome case?

Froome exceeded the allowable amount of salbutamol in a test during the 2017 Vuelta a España, which he won.

He denied wrongdoing and contended that a rider could exceed the allowable limit for the drug in testing without having taken more than the allowed amount. After a lengthy investigation, he was ultimately cleared. At the time, the UCI said that it made the decision that Froome’s salbutamol result did “not constitute an adverse analytical finding” after “having received WADA’s position.”

What was said?

“The UCI was the results management authority with exclusive jurisdiction over the case and all relevant elements at its disposal,” Reedie wrote in an email to Lappartient. “If the UCI … disagreed with WADA’s position, it was under no obligation to espouse it.”

Reedie’s contention seems to have been that the UCI was publicly appearing to shift responsibility for the decision to WADA, with Reedie going on to say, “It is with regret that we have observed apparent attempts on the part of the UCI to divest itself of any responsibility for the decision.”

As BBC Sport reports, Lappartient responded two days later, registering his discontent with the “lack of public solidarity from WADA.”

Lappartient said that he was trying to “protect” WADA’s regulations and rulings surrounding salbutamol despite having reservations about them, and that the UCI did not publicize those reservations and “even accepted WADA’s requests to remove elements of the decision which would put WADA in an uncomfortable position.”

“The fact the UCI ‘did not attribute [its] decision to any systemic failing’ was not because it does not have concerns about your salbutamol regime, but rather because it elected not to air these in a written document sent to an athlete,” Lappartient wrote.

In response to requests for comment from BBC Sport, the UCI said that the emails were “aimed at addressing the relationship” between the UCI and WADA, while WADA said that they the context of a frank discussion… intended to address all outstanding issues openly and honestly… after a period of uncertainty.”

WADA also said that it had “followed all due legal and scientific process.”

Lawyers for Chris Froome also responded to a request for comment from BBC Sport.

“It seems that the UCI had concerns about Wada’s salbutamol regime,” Froome’s lawyers said.

“It would be fairer to athletes if those concerns were tackled, rather than allowing the regime to continue in its current form simply to save WADA from embarrassment and potential legal liability from innocent athletes who have been wrongly prosecuted.

“Mr. Froome hopes that the UCI and WADA have been working to improve the salbutamol regime and to reduce the risk of innocent athletes being wrongly accused of falling foul of it.”

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