Vuelta a Espana champion Chris Froome has been asked by the UCI to explain elevated levels of salbutamol in a drugs test at the competition.
A urine sample supplied by Froome on September 7, following stage 18 of the Vuelta, showed a concentration of the substance that was double the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) threshold of 1,000 nanograms per millilitre (ng/ml).
Asthma medication salbutamol is permitted by WADA rules without the need for a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) when inhaled up to a limit of 1,600 micrograms over 24 hours. The adverse finding, confirmed through a test of the 32-year-old's sample, does not necessarily constitute a break of the rules and Froome will not be hit with a provisional suspension.
According to Team Sky, the UCI's request for further information is to "ensure that no more than the permissible doses of salbutamol were inhaled". None of the 20 other urine tests taken by Froome require further explanation.
Froome's maiden Vuelta victory came after his fourth Tour de France triumph, making him just the third man – after Jacques Anquetil and Bernard Hinault – to win the two Grand Tours in the same year.
The Kenya-born Brit insists he did not exceed the permitted salbutamol dosage and believes the UCI is right to request more information from him.
"It is well known that I have asthma and I know exactly what the rules are. I use an inhaler to manage my symptoms (always within the permissible limits) and I know for sure that I will be tested every day I wear the race leader's jersey," said Froome in a statement.
"My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor's advice to increase my salbutamol dosage. As always, I took the greatest care to ensure that I did not use more than the permissible dose.
"I take my leadership position in my sport very seriously. The UCI is absolutely right to examine test results and, together with the team, I will provide whatever information it requires."
Thank you for all the messages of support this morning. I am confident that we will get to the bottom of this. Unfortunately I can't share any more information than I already have until the enquiry is complete.— Chris Froome (@chrisfroome) December 13, 2017
Team Sky team principal Dave Brailsford said: "There are complex medical and physiological issues which affect the metabolism and excretion of Salbutamol. We're committed to establishing the facts and understanding exactly what happened on this occasion.
"I have the utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for salbutamol. Of course, we will do whatever we can to help address these questions."
WADA's Prohibited List states: "The presence in urine of salbutamol in excess of 1000 ng/ml … is presumed not to be an intended therapeutic use of the substance and will be considered as an adverse analytical finding (AAF) unless the athlete proves, through a controlled pharmacokinetic study, that the abnormal result was the consequence of the use of the therapeutic dose (by inhalation) up to the maximum dose indicated above."
Froome announced last month he will participate in the 2018 Giro d'Italia, where he will hope to match Eddy Merckx and Hinault as the only men to hold all three Grand Tours simultaneously.
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