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Lizzie Deignan says Froome being treated unfairly in doping case

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Chris Froome seemed optimistic in the early days of the Giro, but some experts say the latest news about his Salbutamol case isn't so sunny. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — The public will judge Chris Froome unfairly due to leaks in his asthma case, says 2012 Olympic silver medalist and fellow British rider Lizzie Deignan.

Team Sky’s star won the 2018 Giro d’Italia in May and is preparing for next month’s Tour de France, but he still must deal with an ongoing legal case for testing over the limit for asthma drug salbutamol.

The case stems from the 2017 Vuelta a España, during which he tested over the limit on stage 18 before winning the race three days later. The process was supposed to have remained private, but details were leaked in December.

“He hasn’t had a fair process because already people have made up their minds unfortunately, and that is not based on the full story,” Deignan told the When Orla Met podcast.

“Unfortunately for Chris, his reputation is tarnished and will be forever. Whether he’s innocent or not, it’s kind of irrelevant to some people at this stage. A leak in a legal process should never happen.”

The rules for a specified substance like salbutamol differ from known hard drugs. In Froome’s case, UCI rules allow him to continue competing while the case plays out.

Asthma drug salbutamol is allowed up to 1000 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml). Froome tested at 2,000 ng/ml. A study reported in The Times in May showed that his result would read at 1,429 ng/ml if recalibrated and that the “actionable” threshold is 1,200 ng/ml, even if the limit is written at 1,000.

“A rider should be protected because inevitably there will be things that happen, grey areas that should be looked at logically, scientifically, and analyzed in court,” Deignan continued.

“That’s an inevitable part of having asthma and taking an inhaler, and I think unfortunately he hasn’t had a fair process. It’s a very personal story.”

Deignan raced as Lizzie Armitstead before marrying Team Sky cyclist Philip Deignan. Her story became a public one in 2016 when she missed three out-of-competition anti-doping controls in a span of 12 months — which counts as an anti-doping positive. However, she and British Cycling were able to have the first one ignored after it showed the anti-doping controller did not try hard enough to locate her.

Now pregnant, she is putting her racing career on hold.

Froome, meanwhile, continues to race. After his come-from-behind Giro win, he is taking the month of June off to prepare for a fifth Tour de France title.

A ruling could bring about a ban and a loss of his 2017 Vuelta a España title. UCI president David Lappartient said something similar to Deignan last week — that even if Froome is cleared, a mark on him will forever remain.

“It puts him in difficultly” whatever the ruling is, Lappartient explained. “For the general public, when you throw a name out there, especially since there have sometimes been rumors about Team Sky, then they automatically think that an abnormal result is because he doped.

“You can tell them he did nothing wrong, but in the opinion of the general public, he is a little guilty.”

Attention on Sky is increasing as the Tour nears. Richard Freeman, the former Sky doctor at the center of the jiffy-bag scandal, announced a book deal that will “give a frank and open account in response to allegations of misuse of medical treatment to enhance performance.”

Last year, Freeman declined to appear before a British Parliamentary inquiry looking into Sky, British Cycling, and the medical parcel given to Bradley Wiggins after the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné. He had quit British Cycling and admitted that he failed to keep proper medical records relating to the parcel.

Damian Collins, chairman of the investigating committee, said, “It is disappointing that Richard Freeman wants to tell his story, rather than be questioned about it in front of the committee.”

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