Chris Froome has said that further details of his salbutamol case and the reasons why he was cleared will be released in the coming days. On Monday morning, the UCI announced that after a nine-month investigation, they were closing their case on Froome's elevated levels of salbutamol from an anti-doping test during the 2017 Vuelta a Espana
The statement said that the UCI had conferred with the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) during the process, and they had agreed with the decision, but it did not go into the scientific details behind it.
"It is a very complicated process. It has taken nine months of dealing with the UCI, going back and forth on this point. It's not something I've got my head around fully," Froome said in an interview on Sky Sports News. "It's very technical data. All of that will be fully communicated in the media in the next few days about how we got to this point. For now, I'm obviously extremely relieved to be here and ready for the Tour de France in the next few days."
During the investigation, it was reported that Froome's legal team, led by Mike Morgan, would query the validity of the tests that resulted in the findings. During the interview, Froome was asked if the test was flawed and whether or not he thought it should be reviewed for the future. He remained coy with his answer, saying that it was not up to him to make the call.
"I really think that's a question for the authorities. That's not for me to answer," he said.
Froome's team principal Dave Brailsford was also interviewed on Sky Sports News following the press release by the UCI. Brailsford was asked if he and Team Sky would review their policy on the use of inhalers following the case. Brailsford did not confirm either way but said that lessons would need to be learned from the case.
"I'm sure with WADA and the experts, they will look at this, but he is an asthmatic and he needs this medication, which is very important, so I don't think in any way that this case should jeopardise the use of inhalers for asthmatics within the sport or out of the sport. We need to be balanced and make sure that we take a lesson from it, but the appropriate lessons," Brailsford said.
Froome is now clear to race the Tour de France after the race organiser ASO chose to abandon their bid to ban him under UCI rules that allow races to exclude riders who might damage the image of their event. Team Sky was set to appeal the decision but race director Christian Prudhomme told the France Info radio station that the case was now obsolete. Froome, who is attempting the Giro d'Italia-Tour double as well as a record-equalling four consecutive Grand Tour wins, said that he was not worried about being prevented from racing.
"I've had asthma since I was a kid and I've been taking asthma medication for years now. I know exactly what the rules are with that medication so from the outset I've known that I've done absolutely nothing wrong here," he said. "I've always had that confidence but it has been difficult to read all of these things in the media and opinions that have been completely distorted that have been leaked into the public domain. It was definitely a difficult process but it is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders."
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The Tour de France will start in Noirmoutier-en-l'Île this coming Saturday, and both Froome and Brailsford were asked if they had concerns about the reaction that they would get, particularly on some of the mountain stages. Froome and Team Sky have endured animosity from road-side fans in the past, with Froome himself reportedly having urine thrown at him during the 2015 race. Froome said that it might play on his mind during some of the calmer moments, but that would disappear when in the heat of battle in the mountains.
"When you're in the key moments in the race, you don't have time to think about that," said Froome. "You're going at 110 per cent. It's so tough on those mountains, especially when you have a finish on the top of them so you don't have time to worry if someone is going to stop you, you're just so involved in the race. Certainly, when the race is more relaxed you're probably more aware of what is going on."
Brailsford said that having the case resolved before the Tour de France will help and he isn't expecting the reaction to be too different in comparison to previous years.
"I think certainly, having been cleared and absolutely exonerated, I think that the reaction will be very different to if he was racing with a shadow over him and the sport in its entirety," said Brailsford. "It's very good news. The Tour de France is a great event and the fans are very passionate, as they are in a lot of sports, and we get fantastic support on the side of the road in France and there are those that are supporting others. And, I don't think that it will be any different to other years."
In defending his Tour de France title, Froome is hoping to take a record-equalling fifth Grand Boucle, as well as joining Eddy Merckx as the only riders to win four consecutive Grand Tour titles and becoming the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win the Giro d'Italia and the Tour de France in the same season. Froome has not raced since winning his first Giro d'Italia title in May, as he trained at altitude and reconned some of the Tour's mountain stages, and says that he's feeling fresh ahead of the challenge.
"This is by far the biggest challenge of my career, going for a fifth Tour de France title and a fourth consecutive Grand Tour. This is as tough as it gets for me. This is the biggest challenge I've had and I can't wait to get racing again," said Froome.
"I've never done the Giro before and gone on to ride the Tour de France so this is a completely new approach for me to this year's Tour de France. I've seen people in the past struggle to do both. It is a big ask and a big challenge but I've got a lot of confidence from last year winning the Tour and the Vuelta together, and hopefully, I will have learned from last year how best to go into the Tour. I'm feeling good, I'm feeling fresh for the month ahead and I've got a fantastic team around me. I'm hoping for the best and let's see how things turn out."