Britain’s Chris Froome has denied a report that he is looking to negotiate a short ban rather than fight to prove his innocence after returning an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol during last year’s La Vuelta a Espana.
Froome, who won that race, has not automatically tested positive, but must provide a satisfactory explanation for having twice the permitted level of the substance in a urine test, or the Team Sky rider could face a lengthy ban and would lose his Vuelta title and the bronze he took in the time-trial at the world championships in September.
The four-time Tour de France winner – whose last win in that race came last July – could argue his case by taking a series of laboratory tests to try to recreate the conditions under which he returned the adverse finding, and prove that it could have happened even if he did not take more than the permitted dose of the drug.
A report in Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera late yesterday claimed Froome, 32, was ready to admit negligence in the case, and that his wife Michelle had hired a mediator as the rider looked to negotiate a shorter ban with the UCI.
The report said Froome would accept a ban that would allow him to race this year’s Giro d’Italia and Tour de France as planned – rather than risk taking the tests but failing to prove his case, which would expose him to a much longer suspension.
However, in a tweet yesterday morning, Froome wrote: “I have seen the report in Corriere della Serra this morning – it’s completely untrue.”
It is understood Froome and his team are still examining the variables that may have caused the adverse result. Froome remains adamant he did not exceed the dosage.
That process could be a lengthy one, however, and as Froome has not been suspended either by the UCI or his team, concerns have been raised by rival riders about the prospect of Froome racing this season while still under the threat of a future ban.
Froome has been training in South Africa, and posted the details of a huge ride on social media under the header ‘Empty the Tank’. He covered a distance of 271.6km – longer than any race on the calendar bar Milan-San Remo – in a little over six hours.