A French newspaper has claimed that world cycling’s governing body, the UCI, bent anti-doping rules to provide Chris Froome with a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to permit him to take a corticosteroid during this year's Tour de Romandie, which began on 29 April. In response UCI president Brian Cookson has said that "nothing out of the ordinary occured."
Le Journal du Dimanche says that Froome was allowed to use the drug prednisoloneto treat a chill, after Team Sky doctor Alan Farrell secured authorisation from the UCI’s medical director, Mario Zorzoli, reports AFP.
Using words such as “connivance” and “complicity” in the article, the newspaper pulled no punches in claiming that Froome received favourable treatment and points out that UCI president Brian Cookson’s son, Oli, is employed by Team Sky.
It cited one expert, Dr Gerard Guillaume, who said the UCI had not followed the correct procedures in granting Froome, who went on to win the race for the second year running, the TUE.
He said: "The rules state that taking steroids by mouth is prohibited during competition and that if a cyclist displays a condition requiring such a treatment, he is clearly not fit to take part and that any request for a TUE must be considered by a group of experts."
Under the World Anti-Doping Code, applications for a TUE should be considered by a committee comprising at least three physicians, although the UCI’s own rules permit the decision in individual cases to be made by one person.
The World Anti-Doping Agency is said to be investigating the issue.
This afternoon, the UCI rejected the newspaper's claims in a strongly worded statement, saying:
The Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) has looked into the matter regarding the grant of recent Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) and confirms that nothing out of the ordinary occurred in the case of Team Sky rider Christopher Froome.
Christopher Froome’s TUE for oral use of glucocorticosteroids was granted on April 29, 2014 based on duly documented medical history and in compliance with the applicable UCI Regulations and the relevant WADA guidelines. The TUE was granted for a limited period, following the usual procedure. The process was fully transparent as it is UCI’s policy to systematically record all TUEs on ADAMS. WADA was therefore informed throughout the process.
The UCI wishes to emphasise that under the applicable rules – which are consistent with the WADA Code and the WADA TUE Standard and Guidelines – any rider with the same symptoms as Christopher Froome would have received a similar TUE.
The UCI would like to express its profound disappointment with the speculations that have been made suggesting its President could have any influence on the granting of TUEs. The UCI President and the UCI Administration have absolutely no involvement with decisions on TUEs. Insinuating that Brian Cookson’s son’s employment with Team Sky could have something to do with the decision to grant the TUE is an unfounded allegation which will be dealt with seriously.
It’s the second time this week that Froome’s use of medication has been in the spotlight. On Monday, TV coverage of the Critérium du Dauphiné showed him using an inhaler while riding Stage 2, which he won.
Quoted by AFP, he explained: "I have had an inhaler since childhood, I have exercise induced asthma. It is ok. I didn't need a TUE.
"I don’t use (the inhaler) every time I race, normally only when I have a big effort coming up.
"Given sports history, people are obviously looking for a reason. There's no reason to make a big deal out. It's completely allowed by the UCI.
"It's a bit of a surprise everyone is talking about it," he added.
The Tour de France champion lost his lead in the Dauphiné yesterday to Tinkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, and went into today’s final stage trailing the Spaniard by 8 seconds.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.