Bahrain-Merida team manager Brent Copeland believes that Chris Froome should sit out of racing while his Salbutamol case is resolved. Froome returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for double the allowable limit of the asthma medication during this year's Vuelta a España.
Froome was notified of the findings on September 20, but the issue only came to light on Wednesday through revelations from Le Monde and the Guardian. Copeland emphasised that his issue was not with Froome or Team Sky themselves, but argued that continuing to ride while the case is ongoing gives cycling a bad public image.
"If you have a code of conduct or an ethics code then you should follow that. September 20 is when they were notified and Chris still presented himself at several events and [Team Sky] were negotiating with RCS about the participation of him at the Giro d'Italia, knowing what they had on their plate, which is difficult for me to understand as a manager.
Ulissi was suspended by the team following notification of the finding that June. He made a brief return to racing at the one-day GP Banca di Legnano in September 2014, but was subsequently sidelined again until the case was resolved. Following a lengthy procedure, where Ulissi underwent medical tests, the Italian was handed a nine-month suspension in January 2015.
Copeland defend the use of Salbutamol, saying that there is a genuine medical need by some riders.
"You're riding through different climatic conditions all the time and unfortunately they do suffer from asthma and a lot of riders do use this substance to help them out. If it is accepted by the international medical regulations then it is fine to use. Obviously, it shouldn't be abused."
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As well as questioning the decision to allow Froome to continue racing while the case is ongoing, Copeland took a swipe at the UCI's licence commission.
The WorldTour licences for 2018 were announced on Monday, with Team Sky among the 14 teams to be given an automatic licence. Teams must adhere to several criteria to gain a licence and, given the current situation, the Bahrain-Merida team manager couldn't understand why Team Sky weren't brought in front of the commission at any point. The commission held their hearings at the end of November, two months after Froome and Team Sky were notified of the AAF.
“It is ethics, financial, sporting and organisational and if anything is out of line in one of those criteria then you are called in front of the licence commission to give your reasoning of the situation before the licence is given. When the decision of the licence commission came out on Monday, it said without giving a reason, because that is confidential, but Sky was not one of them.
However, Copeland said that there would be no pleasure in gaining the win in that manner.
"Nobody is going to be opening champagne bottles and saying 'yes, we won the Vuelta' because Froome was suspended. If he is suspended, it will surely be disappointing, not only for us not standing on the top step but Kelderman didn't even stand on the podium, but also for the world of cycling.