Former UCI president Pat McQuaid has said that he thinks Team Sky will lose all credibility with the case involving Chris Froome‘s adverse analytical finding for salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a España, and that it is a ‘disaster’ for cycling.
McQuaid also told BBC Sport in a report published on Friday that he thinks Brian Cookson – UCI president at the time of Froome’s test result on September 7 and McQuaid’s successor in the job from 2013 – would have known about it.
Speaking about Team Sky’s year in which they have also been at the centre of controversy over the contents of a jiffy bag delivered to the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné and the fall-out from a leak of Bradley Wiggins’s therapeutic use exemption certificates, McQuaid said: “They’ve had a very difficult 15 months, when they set out to be the team that is the clean team, that was going to bring back the credibility of cycling and they certainly have gone in the opposite direction this year.
“They haven’t achieved what they set out to achieve. They are a team with by far the biggest budget in cycling and they can afford all of the experts and all of the medical back-up and all of the things that a lot of teams can’t afford and they find themselves in this situation today.
“It’s going to be very difficult to see how they can come out of this with any credibility at all to be honest with you. It begs a lot of questions.”
On Cookson’s involvement in the case, McQuaid said: “How Brian, knowing all of those facts, could turn around and say, ‘you need to hand their credibility back to Team Sky‘, I just don’t understand it, it’s beyond me.”
McQuaid said that it is now up to Froome and Team Sky to explain how Froome’s salbutamol level was twice the threshold limit permitted. A urine sample taken from Froome after stage 18 of the Vuelta on September 7 contained 2000 nanograms per millilitre of salbutamol, compared to the 1000ng/ml limit.
“The fact is, he has broken a rule,” said McQuaid. “The fact is his urine sample was twice the permitted limit. It’s up to him to go and prove that he could have done otherwise.
“We’re now three months down the road, and they haven’t found a solution or a resolution to it yet.”
Team Sky and the UCI both issued statements on Wednesday when news broke of Froome’s test result.
The team said in its statement: “The notification of the test finding does not mean that any rule has been broken. The finding triggers requests from the UCI which are aimed at establishing what caused the elevated concentration of Salbutamol and to ensure that no more than the permissible doses of Salbutamol were inhaled.”
Sky says that there is “considerable evidence to show that there are significant and unpredictable variations in the way salbutamol is metabolised and excreted” and have reportedly employed scientists and lawyers to prepare evidence to support their assertion.
Froome said in the statement: “It is well known that I have asthma and I know exactly what the rules are. I use an inhaler to manage my symptoms (always within the permissible limits) and I know for sure that I will be tested every day I wear the race leader’s jersey.
“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.”
At present, Froome is not suspended from racing in accordance with the UCI’s rules and there is no confirmed date as to when the case may be resolved. It is thought that it could go on for several months. If Sky and Froome’s evidence is unconvincing, then he could face a ban and have his Vuelta win annulled.
In 2015, an independent review into the UCI’s activities was carried out by the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC).
It’s report was critical of the way the UCI under former presidents McQuaid and his predecessor Hein Verbruggen dealt with anti-doping procedures and that it gave certain riders, including Lance Armstrong, favourable treatment.