By Nigel Wynn
Vincenzo Nibali has reacted to the news that Chris Froome returned an adverse analytical finding (AAF) for salbutamol during the 2017 Vuelta a España, saying that it is 'not a great day for cycling'.
Italian Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) finished as runner-up to overall winner Froome (Team Sky) at the end of the Vuelta a España in September.
News broke on Wednesday that Froome had an AAF for salbutamol from a urine sample taken after stage 18 of the Vuelta on September 7. Both the UCI and Team Sky issued statements confirming the test result.
Nibali told Italian news service ANSA: "It's not a great day for cycling. It is not for him either."
The 33-year-old said that he is awaiting the result of the investigation, and would not comment further.
"I'm not going to go into the case, I want to wait for the proper conclusions."
Later on Wednesday, Nibali posted a statement via his Twitter account, saying: " I have read that the press has reported my statements concerning the case of Froome that do not correspond to the truth. Here's what I think: 'Today the world of sport has received bad news: if the news is confirmed, then nobody could give me back the chance to stand on the top step of the podium in Madrid. I'm sure time will give us answers'."
Froome's urine sample had 2,000 nanograms per millilitre of salbutamol, which is double the limit of 1000ng/ml imposed by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Both of Froome's A and B samples returned an AAF.
Team Sky and Froome are currently gathering evidence to support their case, and said in a statement on Wednesday: "There is considerable evidence to show that there are significant and unpredictable variations in the way salbutamol is metabolised and excreted."
It is widely known that Froome takes the asthma medication via an inhaler. Team Sky reports that he suffered from 'acute asthma symptoms' during the final week of the Vuelta and was advised by a team doctor to increase his dosage of salbutamol to relieve the condition.
Under UCI anti-doping rules, Froome is not currently suspended from competition. However, if the case does not conclude in his favour, he could possibly face a suspension and have his 2017 Vuelta win annulled.
Nibali has won all three Grand Tours during his career. He finished second to Froome in the 2017 Vuelta by two minutes and 15 seconds and could stand to inherit the 2017 Vuelta victory should Froome lose it.
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