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Ulissi’s Salbutamol ruling was kept secret — Froome’s might be too

If Diego Ulissi's Salbutamol case is any indication, the details of Chris Froome's Salbutamol case may never see the light of day.

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Don’t hold your breath to see how Chris Froome’s Salbutamol case plays out.

While documents are frequently released as part of anti-doping cases, they’re just as often kept under wraps. It depends on jurisdiction and the terms of the settlement. The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency’s Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong scandal, for example, provided an eye-opening glimpse into the murky waters of blood doping, EPO, and other PEDs.

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Yet documents can also remain sealed in anti-doping rulings and investigations, leaving fans and journalists wondering. One of those was the 2014 Salbutamol case involving Diego Ulissi.

Many have drawn comparisons between Froome and Ulissi. The Italian served a nine-month ban for high levels of Salbutamol. Both he and Froome tested for similar levels of Salbutamol — Ulissi with 1,920 ng/l to Froome’s 2,000. Both argue they suffer from asthma. So it’s natural to look at the Ulissi case to guess what might happen with Froome.

Efforts to parse documents for a comparison between the two cases have proven frustrating. Why? Because the Ulissi documents were never released.

Ulissi held a Swiss racing license when he tested for high levels of Salbutamol during the 2014 Giro d’Italia. After efforts to reproduce the same readings failed via pharmacokinetic testing — an analysis that Froome is likely to employ — Ulissi’s legal team argued that Ulissi inadvertently exceeded allowed levels to treat his asthma. The Italian admitted negligence without the intention of enhancing his performance. He received a nine-month ban. That opened the door for him to return in time to race the 2015 Giro.

No one in the public ever read those documents, however. Swiss Anti-Doping authorities confirmed to VeloNews that the agency does not publicly release documents involving disciplinary actions. A request to view the Ulissi documents was denied.

And just like Ulissi’s ruling, details surrounding Froome’s case might never be publicly revealed.

Ulissi’s documents were kept under wraps due to Swiss anti-doping protocol. Froome’s case might never see the light of day, but for different reasons.

Froome’s case remains at the investigative stage under review by the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF). That means he is not formally facing a disciplinary action, at least not right now. WADA rules allow athletes a chance to explain their cases involving specified products like Salbatumol, which can include thresholds, reduced bans, and maximum bans of two — not four — years. This review process calls for confidentiality [not per request from the athlete as previously reported -Ed.], but leaks to British newspapers burst it into public view late last year.

Froome’s legal team is working behind the scenes to try to demonstrate that high levels of Salbutamol occurred without Froome breaking the rules or taking more than the allotted dosage. The four-time Tour de France winner vows he did not break any rules when he tested for Salbutamol levels double the allowed threshold en route to winning the Vuelta a España in September.

That’s a high-risk strategy that could trigger a potentially longer ban if Froome’s legal team cannot prove its case.

If successful, however, it could mean that insider details of the case will never be disclosed. The UCI or WADA could appeal any agreement with CADF, and insist that a full disciplinary process begin. That would mean what would likely be a months-long process.

So far, Froome’s legal team is not giving much away, and it’s unclear when Froome’s lawyers will present their evidence before CADF. Froome, meanwhile, continues to train with hopes of racing in 2018.

Anyone hoping for a USADA-style treasure trove of documentation from the Froome case might be in for a disappointment.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.