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Froome under doping cloud

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Salbutamol is a drug that helps expand lung capacity. It can be used as a performance-enhancing drug to increase endurance

DOUBLE THE LIMIT: British cyclist Chris Froome risks being stripped of his title for this years Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain) cycle race after news emerged in the press of a positive drug test during the race. Picture: EPA-EFE/JavierLizon

Four-time Tour de France winner Chris Froome has been required by cycling’s governing body to provide information after he returned an abnormal doping test for an asthma drug at the Vuelta.

Froome’s Team Sky said in a statement that Froome, who has not been suspended, has been informed by the UCI that a urine test on September 7 revealed a concentration of salbutamol of 2 000 nanograms, twice the permissible dose.

Sky said that the Kenyan-born rider had to take an increased dosage of salbutamol after he “experienced acute asthma symptoms” during the final week of the race.

Salbutamol is a drug that helps expand lung capacity. It can be used as a performance-enhancing drug to increase endurance.

After successfully defending his Tour de France title in July, Froome went on to win the Spanish Vuelta for the first time.

“My asthma got worse at the Vuelta so I followed the team doctor’s advice to increase my Salbutamol dosage,” Froome said. “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.”

The UCI said in a statement that both Froome’s samples confirmed the result, but stressed that “the presence of a specified substance such as salbutamol in a sample does not result in the imposition of such mandatory provisional suspension against the rider.”

Sky stressed the abnormal result does not mean Froome has breached anti-doping rules and team principal Dave Brailsford insisted he has the “utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for Salbutamol.”

Froome’s abnormal sample was returned after Stage 18.

“As race leader, Chris was tested after every stage through this period and he declared his use of the medication as part of the process,” Sky said, adding that none of the 20 other urine tests taken by the Briton “required any further explanation.”

If found guilty of doping, the 32-year-old Froome could lose his Vuelta title and be suspended.

He said last month that he was planning to ride the Giro d’Italia next year in an attempt to win his third Grand Tour in a row. – AP