Froome: I broke no rules

Four-time Tour de France winner had twice the allowed amount of asthma medication in his system

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome says he has not broken any rules after returning an "adverse" drugs test result during his victory at this year's Vuelta a Espana.

Froome had twice the permissible amount of asthma medication Salbutamol in his system during the Grand Tour race which he won in September, the UCI and his team revealed on Wednesday.

"I understand this comes as a big shock to people," Froome said in an interview with the BBC published yesterday morning (Singapore time). I certainly haven't broken any rules here."

Cycling's governing body UCI said an anti-doping test on Sept 7 showed more than the allowed level of Salbutamol which can be taken without needing a therapeutic use exemption (TUE).

The 32-year-old Froome told the BBC he simply upped his dosage on the advice of the team doctor after his asthma symptoms got worse.

"I've been a professional cyclist now, treating my symptoms and racing with asthma, for 10 years," said Froome. "I know what those rules and limits are, and I've never been over those limits."

The UCI has asked Froome to provide more information but, in line with World Anti-Doping Agency guidelines, has not suspended him.

"I have got a very clear routine when I use my inhaler and how many times. I have given all that information to the UCI to help get to the bottom of it."

He added the UCI was "absolutely right" to scrutinise the test results.

Team Sky said in a statement: "During the final week of the Vuelta, Chris experienced acute asthma symptoms. On the advice of the Team Sky doctor, he used an increased dosage of Salbutamol (still within the permissible doses) in the run-up to the Sept 7 urine test."

Sky said Froome had declared his use of the medication, adding: "The notification of the test finding does not mean that any rule has been broken."

The British rider, who also won Olympic time-trial bronze medals in 2012 and 2016, was notified of the test on Sept 20, the day he finished third in the world time-trial championship in Bergen, Norway.

He has not competed since, but recently announced his intention to try to win the Tour de France and the Giro d'Italia, next year.

Unipublic, the company that runs the Vuelta, refused to take a negative stance on Froome, saying they were waiting for the UCI to finish their probe before deciding whether to take any action against their champion.

"Our position is one of extreme prudence, and it is our hope that the matter will be resolved swiftly," Unipublic said.

Froome won the Vuelta on Sept 10 after finishing 2min 15sec clear of Vicenzo Nibali, who was saddened by the news.

"It's not a great day for cycling and it's not a great day for him," said the Italian climber Nibali, who has won all three major cycling tours.

"If this positive test is confirmed, it will not feel as if I climbed onto the highest step of the podium to be declared champion in Madrid."

Froome, widely considered the greatest Tour rider of his generation, is scheduled to race the Giro d'Italia in May next year, ahead of his Tour de France title defence two months later.

Sky's aim for next year was to have Froome enter a clique of riders who held all three Grand Tour titles at the same time, and for him to clinch a record-equalling fifth Tour de France after his victories in 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017.

The test is bound to raise questions about British cycling following the scandal surrounding Bradley Wiggins, who received TUEs to take a corticosteroid in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including before his 2012 Tour de France win.

Wiggins and Sky have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, saying the drug was prescribed to treat a longstanding pollen allergy.

In 2008, Italy's Alessandro Petacchi was given a 12-month ban and stripped of five stage wins in the 2007 Giro d'Italia despite having a TUE for Salbutamol, having also exceeded the limit. - AFP