In his post-stage press conference on Tuesday in Le Teil, the Team Sky rider said his inhaler use – filmed during Monday’s stage to the Col du Béal, which he won – was legal and did not require any dispensation or special permission for use from the UCI.
He said: “I’ve used an inhaler since I was a kid – I do have exercise-induced asthma, it’s nothing new to me, it’s something I’ve used throughout my career.
“I don’t use it every time I race, normally only when I know I’ve got a big effort coming up or something. It’s completely allowed, you don’t even need a TUE (Therapeutic Use Exemption) for it so it’s a bit of a surprise that everyone is talking about it.”
Asked why he thought the inhaler puff attracted so much attention he said: “I think given the sport’s history people are looking for a reason …I mean there’s no need to make a big deal out of it.
“A lot of people have seen the interviews I do after a race, part of the coughing that I have all the time – that’s part of that narrowing of my airways and that’s one of the reasons I use the inhaler.”
While Froome insists there was nothing illegal in his nebuliser, some popular asthma drugs in particular doses are banned: more than 1600mg of salbutamol over 24 hours is prohibited by WADA. Formoterol will also trigger an adverse analytical finding if more than 30 ng/mL is detected in a urine test and lacks an accompanying TUE.
In 2008, Alessandro Petacchi was banned for 12 months for exceeding the salbutamol threshold though he maintained he never did anything wrong.
While Froome’s grip on the Dauphiné appears solid, some have raised question marks over the strength of his team ahead of his Tour de France defence next month. On stage 2, Richie Porte failed to make an impact as the team set a rapid pace from the foot of the final climb. However Froome insisted that he was confident their form was progressing too.
“I feel I’ve watched my teammates around me also progressing through all the altitude training we’ve been doing, through all the previous races we’ve been doing. I’ve got a lot of confidence in them also,” he said.
“It’s one of the reasons why we’re here is to learn to put the training into practice. I think we maybe made a few mistakes yesterday out on the road, maybe we went a little bit hard earlier on in the climb but then again we also wanted to make more of a selection,” he said.
Wednesday’s stage four brings the peloton 167.5km east from Montélimar to Gap, with a climb and descent of the technical Col de Manse close to the finale.