Data obtained from UK Anti-Doping has dealt a blow to Chris Froome’s likely defence in his on-going salbutamol case.
The data, obtained by the Press Association news agency via a Freedom of Information request, reveals that despite the high number of athletes diagnosed with asthma, salbutamol accounted for only three of the 109 Adverse Analytical Findings (AAF) that UKAD processed between January 2015 and December 2017.
The UKAD figures also show that 77 of the 109 cases - seven in 10 – led to anti-doping rule violation cases. All three of the salbutamol AAF led to anti-doping rule violation cases. UKAD case data reveals that athletes from football, boxing and judo have been banned for the presence of salbutamol in their samples.
Froome was notified on September 20 2017, of an AAF because a urine sample taken from him on stage 18 of the Vuelta a España exceeded the 1000ng/ml allowed limit for salbutamol. He was found with 2000ng/ml but contends that he did not exceed the allowed dosage of the medication, saying that his asthma worsened during the race, and he followed his team doctor's recommendation to increase his dose.
Froome’s case was still being reviewed by the UCI Anti-Doping Foundation as he competed in the Ruta del Sol, which is allowed under UCI rules. The regulations do not require a provisional suspension in cases of 'specified substances' such as salbutamol.
The WADA anti-doping code allows a legal dosage range of 800 micrograms, or eight puffs on a typical inhaler, every 12 hours, and 1600ng/ml within 24 hours.
Froome and Team Sky have denied they exceeded the dosage limits and have suggested the AAF could have been sparked by taking several puffs on an inhaler immediately before he was tested following stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana. It has also been suggested that Froome’s kidneys somehow retained salbutamol, and then perhaps released it in a large dosage just before he gave his anti-doping urine sample.
Speaking to the media before Froome started the Ruta del Sol, Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford argued that the anti-doping rules concern how much salbutamol is assumed, rather than what is passed in the urine. He stressed that Froome had not overused his inhaler.
“It has been proven that even if you take your puffer less than the amounts which you’re entitled to you can excrete more than the threshold in your urine,” Brailsford told Sky Sports News. “It has been proven time and time again, it can happen.”
UKAD statistics obtained by the Press Association show this does not happen often.
Froome is expected to continue to race while his case remains an Adverse Analytical Finding, with the UCI refusing to confirm reports that the case could be passed to the UCI Anti-Doping Tribunal and considered an alleged anti-doping violation.
Froome is expected to start Tirreno-Adriatico on Wednesday as he continues to prepare for his attempt to win the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France.