Chris Froome (Sky) balked during a press conference Monday when asked if he continues to use salbutamol.
“I don’t think that’s really anyone’s business, to be honest,” Froome said. “That’s my medical information.”
VeloNews asked Froome the same question at the start of the Giro d’Italia, and the Sky captain also declined to reveal if he was continuing his salbutamol treatment.
Journalists are wondering if Froome is still using the asthma medication during the Giro as his high-stakes anti-doping case plays out behind closed doors.
Last September, Froome tested above allowed limits of salbutamol en route to winning the Vuelta a España and could face up to a two-year racing ban as well as disqualification of that Vuelta victory.
Salbutamol is allowed without a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) when taken in spray form and under strict limits. Other applications are banned under the WADA code.
The question is relevant because Froome claims he did not eclipse allowed dosages when he returned an adverse analytical finding for high levels on stage 18 at the Vuelta. A fundamental argument to Froome’s defense will likely be that he took allowed dosages yet still produced the AAF.
There is a risk that Froome could trigger another test of high salbutamol levels if he continues to use it during the Giro and other races.
In many ways, it is a loaded question and one that requires a nuanced answer.
For Froome detractors, any answer is the wrong one. If Froome reveals he has stopped using it, doubters will insist he never needed it all. And if he confirms he’s still using the treatment, those same critics will jump to their own conclusions.
Ever since the case was revealed in a December leak, Froome has insisted he is an asthma sufferer and has used salbutamol in accordance with the rules to treat his condition.
Other riders have changed their habits in the wake of disciplinary cases.
The most recent involved Alberto Contador, who claimed he stopped eating meat after testing positive for traces of clenbuterol during the 2010 Tour de France. Clenbuterol is a banned substance in any form, and Contador argued he ate contaminated beef that triggered his positive. Contador lost an appeal and eventually served a backdated ban, losing his 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro victories in the process. Other riders have since been cleared by arguing they also consumed meat loaded with clenbuterol, including Contador’s former teammate Michael Rogers.
The salbutamol questions come as Froome has struggled in the first half of the 2018 Giro. He started Tuesday’s 10th stage in 11th place at 2:27 back. Froome has crashed twice and lost time in key stages, but vows to continue racing toward Rome.
Also Monday, Froome dismissed rumors that he is poised to abandon the Giro.
“No, zero thoughts. I haven’t ever thought of it,” Froome said when asked if he might pull out. “It’s been a tough start for me. Ever since the crash in Jerusalem, I’ve been on the back foot. Everyone could see that.”
With so much at stake during his ongoing case, Froome is being prudent about what he gives away to the media.
“I’m absolutely confident of where I am on this,” Froome told the BBC about his case. “I have done nothing wrong and I will demonstrate that.”