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Chris Froome cleared of doping charges and free to race Tour de France

Joe Robinson
2 Jul 2018

UCI clears Froome of adverse analytical finding of salbutamol just days before the start of the Tour de France

Chris Froome (Team Sky) has been cleared by the UCI for his adverse analytical finding for salbutamol, meaning he is clear to start the Tour de France this Saturday in the Vendee Region of France. 

The decision also means Froome will keep his Vuelta a Espana and Giro d'Italia titles, with the UCI saying it has closed all investigations into the matter.

A press release from the UCI this morning concluded that 'anti-doping proceedings involving Mr Christopher Froome have now been closed'.

'The UCI has considered all the relevant evidence in detail (in consultation with its own experts and experts from WADA). On 28 June 2018, WADA informed the UCI that it would accept, based on the specific facts of the case, that Mr Froome’s sample results do not constitute an AAF.

'In light of WADA’s unparalleled access to information and authorship of the salbutamol regime, the UCI has decided, based on WADA’s position, to close the proceedings against Mr Froome.'

The UCI came to the conclusion that despite Froome having exceeded the permitted dose for asthma drug salbumatol in a 24-hour period, the explanation provided by the rider and his team, alongside 'significant additional expert evidence', gave sufficient grounds to have the original finding overturned.

The four time champion's presence on the start line in Noirmoutier this Saturday had been placed in limbo after reports in French paper Le Monde this weekend claimed ASO, the organising body behind the Tour, was attempting to refuse Froome's entry on the basis of his current situation being harmful to the race's reputation.

The 33-year-old has continued to race throughout the ongoing investigation, including recently winning the Giro d'Italia in May.

The proximity of the decision to the Tour will have many suggesting the decision was a knee-jerk reaction to ASO's threat, however the UCI insisted this was not the case in its statement.

'Whilst the UCI would have obviously preferred the proceedings to have been finalised earlier in the season, it had to ensure that Mr Froome had a fair process, as it would have done with any other rider, and that the correct decision was issued,'

'Having received WADA’s position on 28 June 2018, the UCI prepared and issued its formal reasoned decision as quickly as possible in the circumstances.'

The Le Monde article said ASO did not want the defending champion on the start line without a decision from the UCI, claiming the organisation had informed Team Sky by email that it would not include Froome on the start list.

It was expected that the decision would be revealed on Wednesday, with representatives from both sides set to meet with the French Olympic Committee to plead their case.

The Tour organiser has leaned on its statutes in order to have decisions upheld in the past, particularly Article 28 which reads that ASO 'reserves the right to refuse participation in – or to exclude from – the event, a team or any of its members whose presence would be such as to damage the image or reputation of ASO or the event.'

ASO has invoked this decision three times in the past but has always ended up drawing the short straw with its decision overruled before the race start.

Firstly, ASO attempted to block Richard Virenque and the Dutch TVM cycling team from racing the 1999 Tour in relation to the Festina doping scandal but this was overturned by the UCI.

It then barred Astana from riding the 2006 Tour in the light of the Operation Puerto scandal but the Kazakh team was cleared at the last minuted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Switzerland.

The closest call was in 2009 when the ASO moved to prevent Tom Boonen racing as a result of his positive test for cocaine, yet a French court cleared the rider just 24 hours before the race began.

The UCI's announcement means a similar move to overturn ASO's stance against Froome is now unnecessary, although many will claim the way events have played out amounts to the same thing in all but name.

The UCI concluded its statement defending its decision to Froome while also hoping that a line would be drawn under the investigation.

'The UCI understands that there will be significant discussion of this decision, but wishes to reassure all those involved in or interested in cycling that its decision is based on expert opinions, WADA’s advice, and a full assessment of the facts of the case. The UCI hopes that the cycling world can now turn its focus to, and enjoy, the upcoming races on the cycling calendar.'

This will not prevent Froome from a hostile environment in the three week race around France.

He has already been the subject of physical and verbal abuse while racing the Tour by a small minority of fans and this is likely to continue in light of this surprising finding.

One more Tour de France victory for Froome would see him become the joint most successful rider in the race's history. 

He would join Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain on five victories. 

Froome would also be the first man since Marco Pantani in 1998 to achieve the Giro-Tour double and the first rider in history to win four consecutive Grand Tours. 

Team Sky are yet to announce its eight rider line up for Saturday's Tour but is likely to do so in the coming days with the acquittal of Froome.