'Unfortunately people have made up their minds, and that is not based on the full story'

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Chris Froome‘s ongoing salbutamol case from the Vuelta a España has been handled unfairly and Froome’s reputation damaged whatever the eventual outcome, says Lizzie Deignan.

The case is still being investigated by the UCI and should have remained confidential. However the case was leaked to The Guardian and Le Monde in December, leading to months of speculation over the case.

Froome, who has denied any wrongdoing and has vowed to clear his name, tested over the allowed limit for salbutamol on his way to winning the 2017 Vuelta a España in September. The process of gathering and reviewing scientific and legal papers continues with a decision now not expected until After the Tour de France in July.

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“He hasn’t had a fair process because unfortunately people have made up their minds, and that is not based on the full story,” Deignan told Orla Chennaoui on her When Orla Met podcast.

“Unfortunately for Chris his reputation is tarnished and will be for ever. Whether he’s innocent or not, it’s kind of irrelevant to some people at this stage. A leak in a legal process should never happen.”

The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers reported the test result and initial stages of the process on December 13. Since then the case has been debated in the court of public opinion while Froome continues to race, winning the Giro d’Italia in May.

“A rider should be protected because inevitably there will be things that happen, grey areas that should be looked at logically, scientifically, and analysed in court,” Deignan added.

“That’s an inevitable part of having asthma and taking an inhaler and I think unfortunately he hasn’t had a fair process. It’s a very personal story.”

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According to The Times in May, his Froome’s legal team  will to draw on a new scientific report by Dutch researchers who say that WADA’s salbutamol test is unsafe given that levels in urine can vary wildly. According to the researchers as many as 15.4% of the tests could produce false positives and putting the presumption of guilt on the athlete is “completely unacceptable”.

With his case being debated publicly while legal proceedings are still ongoing, Froome has said that he is continuing to concentrate on his racing and is confident that he will be cleared of any wrongdoing.

“I certainly have got a clear conscious,” Froome said last month. “Like I’ve said, once the time is right, we will share the information with everyone, and I am sure they will see it from our point of view.”

Deignan avoided a ban of her own in 2016 due to issues with the whereabouts procedure along with missed tests. The former world champion was provisionally suspended by UK Anti-Doping for missing multiple tests within a 12-month period, but was subsequently cleared by the Court of Arbitration for Sport after proving that an anti-doping official did not make sufficient efforts to contact her when trying to carry out one of the tests.