It has been revealed that Kenyan born British four-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome failed a drug test during September’s Vuelta a Espana.
The 32-year-old Olympian had twice the permitted level of legal asthma drug Salbutomol in his system, and cycling’s world governing body UCI have asked both Froome and Team Sky for more details.
Salbutamol, which is also marketed as Ventolin, is widely used by asthma sufferers, most commonly in an inhaler. The drug works by relaxing the muscles of the airways into the lungs, making it easier to breathe.
The drug is banned by the WADA when taken intravenously or in pill form as some research suggests large doses administered like this can improve strength and power performance. However, asthma sufferers are allowed to take up 1,600 micrograms (mcg) over 24 hours, without exceeding 800mcg every 12 hours. A typical dosage, or puff, is 100mcg.
The concentration of Salbutamol in Froome’s urine sample was 2,000 nanograms per millilitre, double WADA’s limit of 1,000 ng/mL.
However, speaking to Sky News, Dr Brian Lipworth, of the Scottish Centre for Respiratory Research, said taking higher doses of Salbutamol can actually impair an athlete’s performance because it can cause muscle weakness, increase their heart rate and reduce potassium in their blood.
“Salbutamol of that level means his asthma is being poorly controlled. The fact that he won with those levels is utterly remarkable,” he said.
According to The Guardian, lawyers and scientists are working on behalf of Froome and Team Sky to challenge the result, with the Briton adamant he was simply following the advice of doctors.
He explained: “My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my salbutamol dosage. As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose.
“I take my leadership position in my sport very seriously. The UCI is absolutely right to examine test results and, together with the team, I will provide whatever information it requires.”
Froome has thanked his followers on Twitter for their messages of support.
Thank you for all the messages of support this morning. I am confident that we will get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately I can't share any more information than I already have until the enquiry is complete.
— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 13, 2017
However, if Froome is unable to offer a sufficient explanation for the abnormal findings he could forfeit his Vuelta title and potentially be banned from defending his Tour de France title.
The four-time Tour de France winner, is not the only elite athlete to have asthma. Fellow cyclist Sir Bradley Wiggins, former footballers David Beckham and Paul Scholes as well as retired long distance runner Paula Radcliffe also have the condition.