Dombrowski sees no clear cut answer to Chris Froome's salbutamol case

EF-Education First-Drapac rider Joe Dombrowksi feels there is no clear cut answer to the rights and wrongs of Chris Froome's decision to continue with a normal race program despite the Briton's Adverse Analytical Finding for salbutamol during the 2017 Vuelta a Espana.

The American rider also believes that Froome's case highlights the economic vulnerability of a sport which depends totally on sponsorship deals for financial survival. But at the same time, Dombrowski, a former Team Sky rider, recognises that Froome has the right to race and that not enough is known for the case to be evaluated fully for or against that decision.

"If I was a major corporation, looking at backing cycling , and the biggest rider in the sport is under investigation and racing, and it was not sure whether he's going to get banned and then they are going to have to take away results he's achieved, the whole look is a bit messy if you're trying to sell that," Dombrowski told Cyclingnews.

However, he also points that, "I don't really know the details of the case, I don't think anybody apart from Chris and probably some people at Sky do."

"So I guess I don't have a really strong opinion either way. I don't think it's a good look for the sport in general, which is the only reason I'd say I'm not sure it's great that he's racing, but I don't know all the details, I don't know that that's his fault. There's so much we don't know."

Froome's urine sample from an anti-doping control taken after stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta a Espana was found to have twice the allowed limit of the asthma drug salbutamol. The 32-year-old says he is a life-long asthma sufferer, and insisted that he knows the rules and has never taken more than he is allowed.

UCI rules do not require a provisional suspension due to salbutamol being a specified substance but some riders, team managers and race organisers have expressed concerns over Froome starting the 2018 season while the case was still pending. He would stand to forfeit any results and prizes should he be sanctioned over the case.

Dombrowski argues that "Per the rules it's his right to race, right, it's not the same as a typical doping violation where you're banned, right?"

"Now, is it in the sport's best interest he races? That's a little bit harder to say. I mean, cycling is not the most stable sport to begin with, we derive all our revenue from sponsors and attracting sponsors and the reality is the whole situation just isn't that attractive.

"When it comes to whether Froome should suspend himself or not, Dombrowski argues "At this point it's a bit hard to say. I'd say I'm sitting on the fence. Also we need to look at how the UCI deals with this and how the process is in general, because like I was saying, cycling is such an unstable environment, this is not helping the stability of the environment we operate in."

"It sounds like it should have been kept confidential all along, which is a valid point. But to me that's the biggest thing that's worth reviewing, because it does hurt the sport."

Gunning for the Giro d'Italia after a good winter

Dombrowski himself is in his sixth year as a professional, and is looking to hit top form in the Giro d'Italia. He's already been working hard in the Ruta del Sol, where teammate and stage four winner Sacha Modolo praised the American for his efforts in keeping the breaks under control.

"I feel good here, it's my first race for 2018, I'm the only climber so our focus has been sprint stages, so it's a bit of a different role, basically keeping the breaks in check," Dombrowski said. "But it's been good."

His winter, he said, went well, both back home in the US and then in Nice - interestingly enough, because, he says, it was a case of "less is more."

"I'm ahead of where I was last year, I did a lot more training over the winter [in 2016-2017], but I think I kind of cooked myself in the beginning of the year, and I didn't have a great season last year."

Working with EF manager Jonathan Vaughters as his coach, Dombrowski said "This year we went back to a more similar winter to how I did prior to the 2016 season and thus far everything's been good. I've been healthy."

Another switch, on his build-up to a repeat ride in the Giro d'Italia, is to do the large flat four day Circuite de la Sarthe, an unusual choice for a climber, instead of the more usual build up of training camp at altitude, Romandie and then Italy - albeit via the Israel start.

"I spoke with Charly Wegelius and he thinks doing this sort of race, more of this punchy stuff, would be better than Tenerife and spending time at altitude on my own," Dombrowski explains.

"I'm good at climbing and those long efforts, but sometimes suffer a bit in the flat, windy stages."

His own objectives, he said, are in the Tour de Suisse and the Giro d'Italia, "but it's also a little bit take it as it comes. You just never know when opportunities will surface, and if you don't take them, then sometimes the things you planned for don't come to fruition."

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Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.