From the top of the cycling world, we’ve yet to find out just how far Chris Froome will fall. If you’ve missed the news, the four-time Tour de France champion is currently sitting in UCI purgatory after it was revealed he had twice the legal limit of the asthma drug Salbutamol after Stage 18 at the 2017 Vuelta a Espana. But the news here isn’t a positive drug test from a Tour de France champion. Indeed, during the sport’s recent history, a positive drug test is barely headline material. What’s worth discussing is the repercussions the positive test will have on the rider himself, Team Sky, the sport, and the upcoming race season.
Say it Ain’t So, Chris
Froome as long been known to be asthmatic, but many within the sport question just how bad his asthma attacks are. Katie Compton, 14-time U.S. National Cyclocross Champion, has recently went on the record questioning Froome’s use of Salbutamol. According to Compton, an asthmatic herself, an asthma attack renders her completely unable to stand, let alone ride in a bike race. It’s an interesting take on Froome’s situation from one of the most successful riders in cycling history. But nothing, and I mean nothing is more interesting as Froome’s reported excuse for his Adverse Analytical Finding.
Kidney failure. Yep. Kidney failure. As absurd as this defence is, it’s certainly nothing in the sport of cycling to shoot yourself in the foot when you’re already up against the wall due to a positive test. Fred Dreir’s piece for VeloNews is one of the best I’ve read on the Froome affair and explains the likely cause for Froome’s positive test. No, the likely cause isn’t a kidney failure. In all likelihood, he took an oral dose or an injection of the drug to deal with an asthmatic fit. It’s illegal. He should be banned. If only the UCI worked in a logical way, right?
The Giro Could Be.. Awkward
Chris Froome is slated to race the 2018 Giro di Italia, which could see Team Sky take the start with a proven Grand Tour winner for the first time since Brad Wiggins’s ill-fated attempt at the maglia rosa in 2013. If his doping case isn’t resolved prior to the race, and Team Sky decide to race him while a ruling is still forthcoming, we could see a repeat of Alberto Contador’s Giro of 2011, where he absolutely destroyed the field to take the overall win, only to have the title stripped from him when the Court of Arbitration for Sport upheld his ban, which also saw him lose his 2010 Tour de France title.
The 2011 Giro was a sham, as the favorites all let Alberto go when it became clear no one could hang with the Spaniard in the mountains. Their thinking was, with the ruling from the CAS due after the race, finishing second could end up being the same as winning. And the spectating public suffered through three weeks of cat and mouse, only for the race winner to be determined in a court room, not on the Mortirolo.
A Tour Without Froome
A ban against Froome could see the Tour kick off in July without the four-time winner and defending champion. A ban against Froome could reduce the race in July to a conversation of what-ifs. But if Froome is allowed to race, either serving a shortened, reduced ban or absolved of wrongdoing all together, the race’s credibility could be called into question even more severely by fans, sponsors, and the media. The short version of the story? It sucks. For everyone. For the fans, for the race organizers, for the clean professionals having their sport dragged through the mud once again. What’s worse is that a lot of result sheets at events over the entire course of 2018 will be called into question whether Froome races or not. In that sense, Froome isn’t alone in UCI purgatory – the entire sport is right there with him.
Wes Sovis is a business development guy for VP Demand Creation Services and wanna-be semi-pro cyclist. He’s also the #1 ranked Pokemon Go player in the Midwest.
Photo cred: Road Cycling UK