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16 Jul 2018 11:10
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  •   Home > News > International

    Tour de France: UCI drops case against Chris Froome over Salbutamol reading

    Cycling's world governing body drops its case against the four-time Tour de France winner, allowing him to keep his grand tour titles and attempt to defend his crown without fear of consequence from his Salbutamol saga.

    Chris Froome and Team Sky have always been confident they would be able to explain the elevated levels of Salbutamol that were found in a sample provided by the rider after the 18th stage of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana.

    He would go on to win that race, becoming the first Brit to do so. But a cloud soon overshadowed his achievement.

    An "adverse analytical finding" (AAF) was explained to the team and Froome on September 20 but it was not until December 13 that the news became public, after reportedly being leaked to several media outlets.

    In a pre-emptive release shortly before a joint investigation by The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers was published, Team Sky and the UCI confirmed the news about Salbutamol levels twice the permissible level of 1,000 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml).

    The story of Froome's Salbutamol AAF has subsequently became the talking point of the cycling world for months.

    Other riders — including multiple Giro stage winner, Diego Ulissi, and former Tour de France green jersey winner, Alessandro Petacchi — have been banned from racing for readings of 1,900ng/ml and 1,352ng/ml, respectively.

    Froome has, however, been cleared.

    He is, in theory, able to continue racing when and where his team wants him to.

    Christian Prudhomme made a comment on France Info shortly after the UCI's release was issued on Monday stating that the rider was welcome but "a pity that, once again, it has come at the last moment".

    Only on Sunday, it was reported that the ASO had advised Team Sky it didn't want Froome at the start of this year's Tour.

    The timeline is very much part of the story as it demonstrates that, despite the urgency for a ruling on a complicated manner, a sufficient period and significant resources — scientific and legal — were allocated to ensure a "correct outcome", as desired by all, and vocalised by incoming UCI president, David Lappartient.

    On Monday the confidence of Froome and Sky proved to be justified; cycling's governing body, the UCI, announced it will "close the proceedings against Mr Froome".

    According to the UCI regulations Froome now has the opportunity to defend his Tour de France title and see if he can add a fifth victory to his collection.

    He won the race in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017 and, despite his charm and athletic prowess, has become a polarising topic in the sporting world.

    Cycling's history has helped create a toxic atmosphere when the topic of performance-enhancing products is raised.

    It was 20 years ago that the Tour was dramatically influenced by police action in a scandal that became known as the Festina Affair.

    It was a momentous occasion, one that can take some of the credit for the establishment of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) a few years afterwards.

    There have been many subsequent scandals and confessions that have taken the gloss off cycling but it remains a popular activity and the growth of the sport has been enormous in the years since the Festina Affair.

    Success at the Tour coincides with periods of growth in the popularity of cycling in some countries where it was previously considered a second-tier sport: the USA, Australia and the UK have all boasted champions of the world's biggest race.

    Not all recent titles remain recognised. There have been retrospective results and names replaced by asterisks because of doping, therefore it's natural for the public and media alike to question any finding that suggests the use of doping.

    Floyd Landis and Alberto Contador were stripped of their Tour de France titles in 2006 and 2010, respectively: one for elevated testosterone, the other for the presence of clenbuterol. Both included complicated appeals that dragged on for over a year.

    Until Monday, it seemed plausible that Froome would not only receive a sanction, like Ulissi and Petacchi before him, but also be stripped of his titles from the Vuelta and this year's Giro d'Italia which he won in sensational style in May.

    It was an amazing victory that should have been widely celebrated, but the impact of his AAF continued to cast a shadow of doubt over the rider.

    He raced knowing there was a risk his wins wouldn't stand the test of time, but Monday's news confirms that he is indeed officially recognised as the winner of the Vuelta and Giro.

    What comes from Le Tour in 2018 is another, larger discussion but, based on his performance in the Giro and his history of success at the Tour, we can assume he will be among the protagonists if he starts on Saturday.

    There has been no official communication from ASO as to whether or not it will continue to pressure Team Sky for non-inclusion on the start list.

    There has been a history of animosity between the public and Team Sky, instances where urine has been thrown at Froome and his team-mates, and other rank acts from so-called "sports fans".

    Although successful, the reputation of the team is a mix of good and bad in equal measure: the believers believe with a passion … but there's also a solid dose of negativity.

    It will be interesting to observe what kind of reaction Froome receives when he arrives in the Vendee this week.

    That's what is expected. That is, according to today's ruling, what's allowed. The AAF saga is behind him, but the impact of it will be lasting.

    © 2018 ABC Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved

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