Yorkshire cycling website


Froome Salbutamol case

25th May 2018

Chris Froome

Chris Froome, by denismenchov08, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

There's been an awful lot of comment on Chris Froome's Salbutamol case, almost certainly too much. In spite of that, here's some more.

There wouldn't have been any comment if the case had remained confidential, but news of the Adverse Analytical Finding was leaked to The Guardian and Le Monde. Who leaked it? Despite the gallons of ink splurged on articles on the subject, I haven't see that question asked or answered by cycling journalists. They haven't shied away from asking difficult questions of Froome.

The UCI had the information about the disciplinary process, and the leak came shortly after the election of French politician David Lappartient as UCI President. Was it Lappartient who leaked the information, or authorised the leak? Does he see himself as an impartial President, promoting the interests of cycling in an even-handed way, without favouring one team over another, nor one nationality over another? Or is he playing to the gallery - to French sports fans, for example, with a view to boosting he profile at home?

The product involved is a legal asthma medication. It's not like EPO or human growth hormone, which are definitely performance-enhancing, and banned. It wasn't a secret that Froome used an inhaler. There is a limit on the amount which may be taken, and that's the problem. The amount of Salbutamol found by a urine test was greater than the limit, suggesting that Froome may have taken too much.

There are only three possibilities:

  • 1) Froome deliberately took too much Sabutamol during the Vuelta a Espana; he knew he would be tested, and it seems unlikely he would have taken this risk
  • 2) he took too much Salbutamol by accident and/or without realising it
  • 3) he took only the permitted amount, and because of an anomaly or because the test is not reliable, too much of it appeared in his urine

We don't know which it is. To me, Froome comes across as very polite, but not prepared to let anyone hinder him from pursuing his objectives. You could say that he is ruthless; personally, I don't get the impression that he's a liar or fraudster.

That's not the opinion of commenters below the line on sites like cyclingnews. They never tire of putting the boot into Froome. Almost whatever the subject of the article, the debate turns immediately to the Kenyan-born Brit. The same joke about puffing is made over and again. Many of the commenters 'know' that Salbutamol is a smokescreen for a much bigger fraudulent conspiracy involving Team Sky using electric motors and I don't know what else.

These are people who are upset that Froome has beaten their favourite riders in the past; the easiest reaction is to say 'oh, he must be cheating'. Although this seems to be the overwhelming opinion on cyclingnews, most of it comes from the same five or six people making tens or even hundreds of comments a day.

A bad performance is seen as evidence of cheating: he must have stopped taking the magic sauce. A good performance is seen as evidence of cheating: he couldn't ride like that without the magic sauce.

When Fabio Aru cracked and lost time at the Giro, one cyclingnews commenter wrote that it made him seem more credible; another replied sarcastically, 'Only when all the riders come in last, 25 minutes down, will we truly know that cycling is clean.' That does neatly highlight a flaw in the original commenter's theory.

I've never warmed to Froome a great deal, but I admire the way he has dealt with this affair. It takes incredible strength of character to remain so steadfast and determined in the face of all his critics.

I don't know what the outcome of his Salbutamol case will be. I'm sure we are all suspicious of the performances of certain riders at certain times, and our suspicions are often based on our preconceptions of particular teams and nationalities. Despite the history of cycling, we have to give the participants the benefit of the doubt, and assume their performances are natural, unless proved otherwise. If we don't do that, we may as well give up following the sport.

As it happens, Froome had a very good day in the Giro - which is incontrovertible evidence of...something or other.

Save our wildlife - don't drive so fast

3rd July 2017

Brown hare, North Yorkshire

An otherwise delightful Sunday morning bike ride was blighted by the sight of too many fresh animal carcasses, the creatures killed by speeding cars. Could we change the law, or change our driving culture, and save our wildlife? Read about save our wildlife - don't drive so fast.

Inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure

20th September 2017

Bikes in Zandvoort

Bike lanes in the Netherlands are designed with thought and intelligence to create a joined-up, easily  usable network. I took a few photos of cycle infrastructure in Zandvoort, and I've added some comments about the intention of the planners. In the UK, we should pay particular attention to the way they give bike routes continuity, instead of making them give way to every side street.

Read about inspiration from Dutch cycle infrastructure.

Zandvoort bike lane Bike lane, ZandvoortBike lane at fork in road, Zandvoort

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