Vuelta a Espana organisers call for 'extreme caution' after Froome salbutamol result

Chris Froome (Team Sky) risks being stripped of his Vuelta a España title due to his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol following stage 18 of this year's race, but in a statement on Wednesday morning, the Vuelta organisation said that it had yet to receive formal notification of the matter.

Froome sealed a Tour de France-Vuelta a España double in September after leading the race for 18 of its 21 stages. The Briton surprisingly emerged as a belated Grand Tour contender by placing second at the Vuelta in 2011, and went on to place on the podium in 2014 and 2016 before landing victory this year.

"Regarding today's news about Christopher Froome's unfavourable test result during La Vuelta 2017, Unipublic, the organiser of La Vuelta, wishes to communicate that it will await the UCI's official conclusions," Unipublic said in a statement issued on Wednesday morning.

"The regulatory entity has launched an investigation and the position of La Vuelta's organiser is one of extreme caution, as it hopes for this issue to be resolved as quickly as possible."

Froome returned an adverse analytical finding for twice the permissible dose of salbutamol on September 7 following stage 18 to Alto de Santo Toribio de Liébana, where he put 21 seconds on his closest rival Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida).

Froome and Team Sky was notified of the finding on September 20, the day he finished third in the elite men's time trial at the UCI World Championships in Bergen. The result was later confirmed by analysis of the B-Sample.

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News of Froome's adverse analytical finding was broken by The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers early on Wednesday morning, and later confirmed by both the UCI and Team Sky. In a press release the WorldTour team has said they are committed to establishing the facts and understanding what has happened.

Salbutamol is classed as a specific substance and an adverse analytical finding does not result in a mandatory provisional suspension, though Froome will face a sanction if he is unable to provide a sufficient explanation for the elevated levels of salbutamol in his anti-doping sample.

Nibali, who placed second overall in Madrid, would be awarded Vuelta victory if Froome were to be stripped of the title.

Froome announced two weeks ago that he would ride the Giro d'Italia in 2018, although his participation is at risk if he cannot provide an explanation for the elevated levels of salbutamol in his anti-doping sample from the Vuelta.

Diego Ulissi and Alexandre Pliuschin were each given nine-month suspensions following positive tests for salbutamol in 2014.

Delgado's reaction

Speaking to Radio Marca, two-time Vuelta winner Pedro Delgado said it would be sad if Froome was stripped of his Vuelta victory.

Delgado returned a positive test for probenecid en route to his 1988 Tour de France victory, but escaped sanction as the substance was not on the UCI banned list at the time, even though it was prohibited by the International Olympic Committee.

"It's a product that's used to treat asthma and it's known that Chris Froome has this condition and has the authorisation to use this substance," Delgado said. "It's very sad if he's going to lose the Vuelta, although I don't think it will affect the season to come."

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