British Cycling CEO Julie Harrington has criticised the leaking of Chris Froome’s Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol, believing it has damaged the reputations of Froome, British Cycling and the sport in general. She confirmed that Froome remains eligible for selection for the Great Britain national team until a verdict is reached.
Froome returned an AAF for salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a España, with twice the permitted level of the asthma drug found in his urine in a post-stage 18 test. Given salbutamol is a ‘specified’ substance, Froome - who denies exceeding the permitted dosage - has not been provisionally suspended, but must prove that his sample could have been skewed by other factors, such as dehydration and the proximity of his salbutamol dose to his test.
News of Froome’s AAF emerged thanks to an investigation by newspapers The Guardian and Le Monde, with Team Sky and the UCI quickly confirming the news. Despite being sportingly sub-judice, Froome announced he will target the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in 2018. He is reportedly being paid €1.4 million to take part in the Giro.
However, a drawn out legal process and eventual ban could derail those ambitions and see him lose any success and prize money.
"The issue in this case is that the process was leaked, and while somebody is trying to prove either way why they had that adverse analytical finding it’s being debated in the court of public opinion," Harrington argued.
"That’s a blow to cycling’s reputation, the individual athlete’s reputation. You only need to look at Twitter feeds and the comments below articles and people will make up their own mind based on not having the full evidence, which is a shame.
"I would rather that information hadn’t been leaked and we were able to deal either with a situation where an athlete is banned and then as a national governing body it’s pretty clear what our position is. Or, alternatively, where the athlete was able to prove a real reason for that AAF and carry on with their careers as normal.”
Available for Great Britain selection
Froome’s AAF dates back to a urine test taken on September 7. He was reportedly informed of the results on September 20 while representing Great Britain in the time trial at the Road World Championships in Bergen. Froome finished third behind Tom Dumoulin and Primoz Roglic.
Harrington made it clear that Froome was still eligible for selection for future events with Great Britain but she hopes the case will be resolved in time for this year’s World Championships in Innsbruck, Austria in late September.
"He’s not banned, he’s available for selection," Harrington said. "There is the option for an athlete to rule himself out of selection but under the rules of racing he is available and innocent until proven guilty.
"When we approach a race where we’re looking at selection decisions, we’ll have a choice to make at that point."