'A scandal' - Tony Martin sounds off on Chris Froome's salbutamol case

'Our credibility is at stake' says German

Tony Martin has called Chris Froome's adverse analytical finding (AAF) for salbutamol a "scandal" for the sport. The Katusha-Alpecin rider also suggests the Tour de France and Vuelta a España champion should not have competed in the World Championships, where he won bronze medals in the individual and team time trials.

On Wednesday Le Monde and the Guardian revealed that Froome had returned an AAF at the Vuelta on September 7 for twice the permissible limit of salbutamol, an asthma medication. The news was quickly confirmed by the UCI and Team Sky. Froome won the Vuelta following his fourth Tour de France victory in the summer to make it a historic double.

Last month, Froome announced he would ride the Giro d'Italia in a bid to hold all three Grand Tours at the same time. However, Froome is likely to face a suspension if he and Sky cannot provide a satisfactory explanation for the elevated levels of salbutamol found in his system. Should he receive a ban, it is also likely he will lose his Vuelta title and bronze medals from the Worlds.

Writing on his personal Facebook account, Martin stated that as a result of Froome's AAF, "Our credibility is at stake."

"There is definitely a double standard being applied in the Christopher Froome case," he wrote.

"Other athletes are suspended immediately after a positive test. He and his team are given time by the UCI to explain it all. I do not know of any similar case in the recent past. That is a scandal, and he should at least not have been allowed to appear in the World Championships."

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Salbutamol is classed as a Specified Substance on WADA's prohibited list, and thus an AAF for salbutamol does not trigger an automatic suspension like it would for other banned substances, even when - as in Froome's case - the B-sample confirms the A-sample. The onus is now on Froome to offer an explanation for his abnormally high level of salbutamol, but the rules state he is free to race until the UCI deliver a final verdict.

Froome's test was taken on September 7, with the UCI notifying him and Team Sky of the findings September 20. On September 17, Froome raced the team time trial event at the World Championships, helping Team Sky to the bronze medal. On September 20, he competed in the individual time trial for another bronze medal.

"Not only the public but also I have immediately the impression that there is wheeling and dealing going on behind the scenes, agreements are being made and ways are being sought as to how to get out of this case," said Martin, who finished ninth in the time trial in Bergen. "Do he and his team enjoy a special status?"

In recent years, Martin and his German compatriots John Degenkolb and Marcel Kittel, in particular, have been outspoken on anti-doping matters. The trio were instrumental in persuading German television broadcasters that the sport had moved on from doping scandals of the 2000s, and returning the Tour de France to public television. The 2017 Tour de France Grand Depart took place in the German city of Dusseldorf this July while next August the Deutschland Tour returns after a multi-year hiatus.

Further addressing the reputational damage done to the sport by the reaction to Froome's AAF, Martin called on the UCI to provide leadership and clarity surrounding doping.

"These actions are a major blow to the difficult anti-doping fight, which I am leading with riders like Marcel Kittel. We need a consequent and transparent approach by the UCI. What is going on here is inconsequent, not transparent, unprofessional and unfair."

Speaking to the BBC on Wednesday night, Froome said that he was cooperating with the UCI to explain the excessive levels of salbutamol in his system.

"I can understand a lot of people's reactions, especially given the history of the sport. I think this is obviously a very different case. This is not a positive test," Froome told the BBC.

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