Alessandro Petacchi, who served a suspension for exceeding limits on salbutamol, wonders how Chris Froome (Team Sky) failed an anti-doping test for the asthma drug with such a high level and with testers that are always watching.
The top Italian sprinter retired in 2015, but served a suspension for over-using the inhaler drug and lost five of his Giro d’Italia stage victories. He was found with 1320 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml) of salbutamol in his system after winning a stage in the 2007 Giro.
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“To arrive at 2000 nanograms, I wonder, how the hell did he do that?” Petacchi told Cycling Weekly. “And Chris Froome knows they are controlling him every day. You are Froome, they are watching you every day.
“I’ll repeat it, if you are positive for EPO, you are an idiot, you can’t say that you made a mistake. We are talking about something that’s allowed.”
Froome says that his asthma worsened in the Vuelta and that he followed the doctor’s advice to increase the dosage, but that he took care not to use more than permitted.
“But you need to consider if there’s another way of using it, because that’s a high value, but is there a physiological way of getting there? Was he dehydrated, et cetera? I wonder, that’s what happened to me,” Petacchi said.
“When I went to UCI after they contacted me, they showed me the history of all of my controls. All the controls were different, not one the same. It depends how soon you used it before the control, how concentrated your urine was.
“I used it more or less the same every time, but it’d vary: 300, 400, or 700 or 500. That time it was 1200, but that was the only one where I concentrated urine.
“Now, that’s the only way I can justify how it happened. Had I had a bottle of water after the finish, instead I did the podium ceremony and the control, and maybe I didn’t drink enough. Had I done that, maybe my urine would’ve been clean like the others.”
An athlete is not required to have an exception certificate (TUE) to use the inhaler, but one can not exceed 1000 nanograms. Petacchi wants the drug banned entirely because alternatives exist and it risks ruining his loved sport.
“I hope, for the good of cycling, that it all finishes well and that he can continue to race and the UCI makes a different rule for salbutamol; that they say you can no longer use it, it’s a doping substance, so from there, the problem is solved,” Petacchi continued.
“As it is today, you can maybe substitute it with something else or another therapy, I felt better after I did so. It doesn’t help you anyway, only if you have an attack, it takes you up to where you were before, not improving your performance.
“We can’t ruin cycling and everything that Froome did in these years for a darn puff of salbutamol. OK, but if he did something wrong and strange, OK, I’ll accept that and shut up, say, ‘Chris you are an idiot.’ But as it is, we can’t do this for an inhaler.”