Leaked discussions between WADA and UCI reveals tension over Chris Froome salbutamol case 

The BBC has obtained details of a spat between the two bodies after the case against Froome was closed

(Image credit: NurPhoto via Getty Images)

A leaked discussion between the UCI and WADA has revealed the tensions caused by the Chris Froome salbutamol case, according to the BBC (opens in new tab)

Froome, winner of seven Grand Tours, was cleared of wrongdoing after he returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for the substance salbutamol after stage 18 of the 2017 Vuelta a España, which he won overall. 

In 2017, as a result of leaks to The Guardian and Le Monde newspapers, news emerged that Froome had returned an AAF after almost double the allowed dosage of salbutamol was found in his system, which was a breach of WADA rules relating to the asthma medication. 

Froome then released a statement saying due to an asthma flare up in the final week of the Vuelta he had increased his salbutamol intake, but insisted he had stayed within the legal limits. 

He also suggested dehydration during the race may have resulted in a build-up of salbutamol in his system.

In July 2018, the UCI then closed the investigation, stating that Froome had provided enough evidence to clear him of the AAF. 

The BBC has since obtained correspondence, which reveal that cycling’s governing body and the World Anti-Doping Agency were both unhappy with the way Froome’s case was handled. 

Following the decision to clear Froome, UCI president David Lappartient wrote to the then WADA president Sir Craig Reedie to say the organisation appeared to be putting sole responsibility for the decision on the UCI.

Lappartient said: "We both know very well who took the initiative of closing this case and the reasons why 

"It is disappointing to see that your organisation is not taking responsibility on the ground that technically the decision had to be taken by the UCI." 

Reedie responded to Lappartient 10 days after the decision, saying it was “disappointing” and “wrong” that the UCI was claiming it had no choice but to close the case, saying WADA had no influence on the process.  

According to the BBC, Reedie said: “It is with regret that we have observed apparent attempts on the part of the UCI to divest itself of any responsibility for the decision.” 

Lappartient then replied to Reedie saying that WADA was showing a “lack of solidarity,” going on to say that the UCI had concerns about WADA’s salbutamol rules, but opted not to voice them publicly. 

The BBC also made Froome’s legal representatives aware of the correspondence, with the lawyers releasing a statement. 

Froome’s lawyers said that the UCI’s concerns about the salbutamol rules should be tackled and that Froome “hopes the UCI and WADA have been working to improve the salbutamol regime and to reduce the risk of innocent athletes being wrongly accused of it.”  

When approached about the correspondence between the heads of the two organisations, the UCI said the talks were aimed at addressing the relationship between the UCI and WADA. 

The UCI said: “Wada has made developments with respect to the salbutamol regime in anti-doping proceedings.”

WADA said it “continues to believe that the decision taken not to proceed with an ADRV [anti-doping rule violation] against the athlete was the correct and fair one.”

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The anti-doping authority added: “Since this case and the subsequent discussions that took place, work has continued in relation to salbutamol.” 

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.