Here are the facts (as far as I can tell):
  • Chris Froome tested for twice the amount allowed for the asthma drug Salbutamol after Stage 17 of last year's Vuelta.
  • Salbutamol is a specified substance on WADA, which does not require a TUE for inhaled use as long as the user stays below the threshold.
  • Salbutamol in high doses or ingested through other means has performance-enhancing qualities.
  • Froome and Team Sky have decided to fight it, which could draw out the case for over a year.
I think Froome and Sky have screwed up royally.
He could have stood up immediately upon notification, taken the hit while maintaining his innocence, emphasized his "strong" support for anti-doping efforts, and served out his sanction during the off-season. At the same time, he could have worked with the UCI and WADA to determine if there were any extenuating circumstances that led to the positive, possibly leading to a clearing of his record if any were found. He would have lost his Vuelta title and his Worlds TT bronze, but he would have likely retained some shred of public good will and most of the drama would be cleared up by the time the Giro and Tour rolled around.
That ship sailed long ago.
Now, even though he can race while his case is still ongoing, almost nobody supports him in professional cycling. Even his teammates are decidedly lukewarm in their comments. His rivals, possibly looking for a way to weaken Sky's TdF dominance, have taken their shots. Even the head of the UCI and the organizers of the three Grand Tours have weighed in against him.
He's fucked.
He's going to lose the Worlds medal and the Vuelta title. He's going to get sanctioned. They aren't going to impose the minimum, so likely any results he gets in the interim will also fall under the ban and therefore be forfeited as well. The image of professional cycling will take yet another string of hits because of this. His reputation will be tarnished and he'll lose valuable time at the peak of his athletic performance. Sky, already shouldering their share of doping scandals, may lose sponsorship as their new overlords, Disney, may not want to be associated with the organization anymore.
No matter your opinion on his guilt or innocence (I was hoping there was some legitimate explanation, but I'm not buying what they're selling so far), intent does not change the result of the failed drug test, and they are not disputing the result. They are arguing the reason for the result, and most experts say the burden of proof is an extremely high hurdle to overcome.
They're fucked, because they chose to stand on their shaky moral high ground and protect a couple results. Giving up a GT title and a Worlds medal is no small thing, but the potential downside for everyone just doesn't justify this course of action.
Of course, nobody asked me.


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