Chris Froome has called upon the UCI and the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) to "urgently address" the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) system which he feels is "open to abuse".
The three-time Tour de France champion and Team Sky leader issued a second statement on Tuesday in reaction to the controversy currently engulfing former teammate Bradley Wiggins after the Fancy Bears hacking group released details of riders' TUE history. While his first statement last week claimed there was nothing in his leaked files that wasn't already in the public domain, Froome's latest statement sees him insist he has never had a 'win at all costs' mentality.
"I take my position in the sport very seriously and I know that I have to not only abide by the rules, but also go above and beyond that to set a good example both morally and ethically," he said.
"It is clear that the TUE system is open to abuse and I believe that this is something that the UCI and WADA needs to urgently address. At the same time there are athletes who not only abide by the rules that are in place, but also those of fair play."
"I have never had a 'win at all costs' approach in this regard. I am not looking to push the boundaries of the rules. I believe that this is something that athletes need to take responsibility for themselves, until more stringent protocols can be put in place."
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The Fancy Bears leak showed that Froome has received two TUEs in his career, both for courses of prednisolone designed to treat asthma. The second one, at the 2014 Tour de Romandie, was a source of considerable controversy as it emerged the UCI had ‘fast-tracked’ the application, with Froome going on to win the race.
While details of that case were made public via a leak to a French newspaper, Froome had also made previous reference to his first TUE from May 2013.
"I've openly discussed my TUEs with the media and have no issues with the leak, which only confirms my statements,” he said in his initial response to the Fancy Bears leak. “In nine years as a professional I've twice required a TUE for exacerbated asthma, the last time was in 2014.”
Froome’s medical information was released in the same batch as that of his former teammate and fellow Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, who has since found himself at the centre of an intensifying controversy. While TUEs do not break any anti-doping rules, the leaks have brought them under the spotlight, the suspicion being that they create a grey area whereby an athlete can make use of performance enhancing treatment under a spurious medical pretext.
Wiggins has faced intense scrutiny over the circumstances of the three injections of the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide he received ahead of three major objectives – the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia. The 36-year-old was at Team Sky at the time of all three, and team principal Dave Brailsford, after a long period of silence, came out on Monday to defend the process.
Froome, however, now Team Sky’s most prized asset after he took over team leadership from Wiggins, has today issued a hard-hitting attack on the system.
The fractious nature of the relationship between Froome and Wiggins is well documented, with tensions coming to a boil on La Toussuire during the 2012 Tour and the pair barely racing together again since.
The 31-year-old did not make direct reference to the Wiggins case in his latest statement, and it is unclear whether he feels his old teammate falls into the camp that ‘abides by the rules of fair play’ or is one of those who will ‘push the boundaries of the rules’ in a bid to ‘win at all costs’.
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