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Journalist attacks team as French newspaper repeats claims over Chris Froome medication

Sunday Times journalist David Walsh, author of the book Inside Team Sky, has questioned the British WorldTour outfit’s commitment to its ethical policies following its application for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) in April to allow Chris Froome to take part in the Tour de Romandie while taking medication to treat a chest infection.

Walsh’s criticism came as French newspaper Le Journal de Dimanche reiterated its claim, originally made the previous week, that the UCI did not adhere to correct procedures in granting Froome a TUE for glucocorticosteroids ahead of the Tour de Romandie in April.

The journalist, who spent a period of 2013 embedded within Team Sky, claimed in The Sunday Times [£] that Sky had changed its position on TUEs, asking: “What has happened to the team's belief that TUEs should not be sought for riders in competition?”

He said that while Froome and team doctor Alan Farrell said they could recall no such stance, sports psychiatrist Steve Peters, who worked with the team as part of his former role at British Cycling, insisted that had been the team’s policy.

“Team Sky like to portray themselves as the most ethical team in the peloton. The evidence says otherwise,” Walsh added.

While Sky would not say yesterday whether it had ever had internal rules regarding not using TUEs, Telegraph Sport says that the team confirmed it had no problem applying for one “where appropriate.”

Regarding the TUE issued to Froome ahead of the Tour de Romandie, a spokesman for the team said: “This treatment was considered, documented and fully in line with good medical practice and all guidelines.

“We gave proper care to the rider, made the appropriate – though rare – use of a TUE and followed the correct procedures, as WADA and the UCI made clear.

“Team Sky’s stance on anti-doping is well-known. We follow the rules, ride clean and fully support the authorities in their work."

Following the claims made by Le Journal du Dimanche a week ago that the UCI had deviated from the correct procedure in issuing the TUE to Froome, who had been suffering a chest cold, the governing body, Team Sky and the World Anti-Doping Agency all said that the matter was in order and above board.

The newspaper maintained that the TUE had been issued on the sole authority of Dr Mario Zorzoli of the UCI’s medical committee, but says the decision should have been taken by a committee in line with the World Anti-Doping Code.

Last week, responding to the French newspaper’s original allegations, the UCI said: “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,” it added.

WADA subsequently said in a statement that it was "satisfied that the UCI's decision to grant a Therapeutic Use Exemption to Chris Froome was conducted according to the rules of the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions, and therefore will not be reviewing this case any further".

However, yesterday, Le Journal de Dimanche claimed that WADA was urging the UCI to put such a committee in place to handle applications for TUEs and said that it understood that the governing body would remedy the situation ahead of the Tour de France.

Teams that are members of the Movement For Credible Cycling (MPCC), which includes 11 of the 18 top-flight WorldTour outfits, believe that riders should not be allowed to race if they have an illness that requires a TUE to be granted.

Sky, in common with six other leading teams, is not a member of the group, and a spokesman said: “The MPCC is a voluntary organisation and we’ve made the choice, like others have, not to be a member.”

Telegraph Sport points out that while Sky’s use of TUEs would not be in line with the MPCC’s code of conduct, other policies imposed by the team are more stringent than those adopted by the organisation, such as not employing riders or team personnel who have been involved in doping.

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.

25 comments

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Simmo72 [603 posts] 2 years ago
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Here we go, lead up to the tour and a 'drug' story surfaces about Sky.....all rather zzzz except its not a french journalist for a change.

If he had had back to back continous TUE's then fair enough. It was Tour of Romandy was too critical to Sky's prep for the tour, that is why I think they did it (it being within the rules). If every rider has a common TUE then clearly its an issue but this individual instance is not a story.

And no I'm not one of the Skytifosi, I want Nibali to win the tour

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choddo [38 posts] 2 years ago
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"remedy the situation" - oh the lol.

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 2 years ago
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I have fallen out of love with Sky, they don't love the sport, they are number crunchers and in my view hypocrites.

However I hate these types of stories even more than Sky, from what I can see Sky did everything correctly, if the UCI didn't follow their own rules why is that Sky's fault ? are they supposed to test the UCI had followed the rules before they accepted the TUE ? nope.

Stop having a go at Sky, they are not the ones who broke the rules.

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mrmo [2077 posts] 2 years ago
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Pro sport is about entertainment, something people forget. It is also a job and riders have bills to pay.

I doubt many teams don't sail close to the wind with the use of drugs and supplements. Only have to ask why the use of Tramadol? Not banned but is it really a good idea?

Drugs shouldn't be a part of pro sport, but they are and always will be.

Have to ask where are the stories about drugs and football though? Spain from number one to out in the first round in 4 years, where is the mention of Dr Fuentes... and his not being around this time? So are the Spanish clean this time? or others just more doped?

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tomturcan [66 posts] 2 years ago
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David Walsh is pointing at something potentially more sinister - the opacity of the TUE system and the potential for systematic abuse by athletes (not just cyclists). If he's right that Sky have consciously shifted from not using TUEs to using them, that's a significant event and needs more of an explanation than "we comply with the rules". It sounds to me that the TUE system needs not to operate in secret, so that people can have faith it isn't being used to get otherwise banned substances into althletes bodies during a competition.

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pmr [197 posts] 2 years ago
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Agreed with comment 1 - I would also like to see Nibali win the tour, as I ve backed him!  4
Nothing against Froome tho, I believe he's as cleaner rider as you'll find in the peleton.

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ScottIreland [1 post] 2 years ago
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Every time I see something like this, my first reaction is to look and see if the writer has a new book to hawk, and is building up his presence...and that may well be. The whole TUE system needs an overhaul, and as long as there are loopholes, teams will try to exploit them - even (especially?) Sky. But both fans and journalists need to understand the effects that certain exempted medications can have - not all steroidal compounds have a performance enhancing effect, so writing about them as if they're all the same is either ignorant or disingenuous, or both.

As long as a rider is on the course with an exemption, it should be so noted publicly, and the potential effects of that med ought to be listed. This goes for Tramadol as well - which apparently isn't on any banned list!

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Grizzerly [298 posts] 2 years ago
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As I understand it, the whole concept of the introduction of TUEs was to comply with EU employment regulations. It would be discriminatory to prevent an individual plying his legitimate trade by denying him access to medication. That is why WADA allow TUEs. That is why a TUE was appropriate. It would be illegal for Sky to have an internal rule banning them in these circumstances.

The only thing I don't understand is why supposedly experienced and knowledgeable journalists can't grasp this. Unless, of course, they are simply trying to cause trouble for the sake of a cheap story, but they wouldn't do that, that would be unethical, wouldn't it.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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ScottIreland wrote:

As long as a rider is on the course with an exemption, it should be so noted publicly

I disagree and this article explains why much better than I can: https://medium.com/@MichaelCarcaise/tue-confidentiality-in-pro-cycling-9...

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spin sugar [48 posts] 2 years ago
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Grizzerly wrote:

As I understand it, the whole concept of the introduction of TUEs was to comply with EU employment regulations. It would be discriminatory to prevent an individual plying his legitimate trade by denying him access to medication. That is why WADA allow TUEs. That is why a TUE was appropriate. It would be illegal for Sky to have an internal rule banning them in these circumstances.
.

And I wouldn't be surprised if CF insisted on it (not that I think any one rider should be bigger than the team, I don't think they should be compromising their position/beliefs on approach to this stuff, even for a GC contender). He seems even more competitive, maybe even a bit on edge, this year- if that's possible! Probably because things aren't going all his way or so smoothly this year.

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notfastenough [3685 posts] 2 years ago
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So now that Walsh has written this, will the Sky hecklers please clarify something for me: Is Walsh in Sky's pocket or not? Because if he isn't, that suggests that everything else he has written about this team is, to the best of his knowledge, true. We can't have that, can we?

Regarding CF, I think Sky did have a policy of not issuing TUEs, but I think the thing Sky have been repeatedly guilty of is naivety, to the point of tying themselves in knots - hiring doctors from outside the sport, then finding that no-one knew enough about the physical stresses particular to cycling, then hiring Leinders, then realising he's been up to his neck in it previously... etc etc ad nauseum. As is the case now - can you imagine the conversation?

Doc: "We'll need to withdraw Froome from important build-up races, as we can't issue a perfectly legal TUE for a legal medication. Would you like to tell James Murdoch?"
Dave Brailsford: "Err..."

I'm not sure if it still is, but I seem to recall Vicks Sinex used to be on the banned list. That would I've doped on the club run to ease my sinuses! If I was due to race, you think I'd withdraw for that? Not likely, I'd be asking for permission to use it.

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farrell [1950 posts] 2 years ago
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notfastenough wrote:

So now that Walsh has written this, will the Sky hecklers please clarify something for me

I can clarify and confirm that Walsh is a petty, bitter man.

I suspect he may have been a bit in Sky's 'pocket' when he was given full access to them, probably got quite close to them. Certainly he got tight with Froome to the point that he was his ghostwriter for his autobiography.

Now he appears to have spat the dummy and is going after Team Sky and will no doubt stamp his feet and scream loudly until people listen to him.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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Oh dear, their (un)official mouth-piece is starting to see the wood from the trees!

I'd like to know when he found out Froome had asthma - was it when he was getting to know him when in bed (sorry imbedded) with Sky, or did he read it recently in a Sky PR release like the rest of us (after puffer-gate) and has swallowed that one without question too?

Sky are like a poor liar - it is said that to be a good liar you need a very good memory - Sky either can't remember the BS they trot out or they're so arrogant* they don't give a crap (*anyone remember their first season where they warmed up in secret, hidden behind a screen outside the team bus?)

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tomturcan [66 posts] 2 years ago
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Farrell: "I disagree and this article explains why much better than I can: https://medium.com/@MichaelCarcaise/tue-confidentiality-in-pro-cycling-9…"

Blog makes a fair point about people with long term conditions needing privacy and the ability to compete.

Not so sure the case is made for "exceptional circumstances" like Froome's.

In any event, there needs to be objective oversight of the TUE process on behalf of the public to check for abuse. Who does this?

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ChairRDRF [308 posts] 2 years ago
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It might be worth pointing out that Prednisolone, the steroid being used in the spray, is NOT an anabolic steroid of the kind which assists in building up muscle. In that sense, it is NOT "performance enhancing".

Of course, it does help him with his breathing as he has asthma, and in that sense may enhance his performance - it just is not one of the "anabolic agents" which we have seen in the past as performance enhancing drugs.

That may help the discussion.

Or not.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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ChairRDRF wrote:

...it is NOT "performance enhancing".

Rubbish!

Here's what Boelens, the team doc at Giant-Shimano, says:

“We still feel like we’re dealing with the past and we want to be open and clear, to take away all doubts. You can see what kind of media attention this has generated and glucocorticosteroid has been known as a performance enhancing drug that has been used a lot. We don’t want grey areas anymore so there are no glucocorticosteroids for our riders in races," he said.

“I’d like to see the MPCC rules for all the teams, definitely. That’s what we’re regularly asking the UCI and WADA. It’s working because Tramadol is under investigation and Xenon has been banned quickly by WADA. We hope Tramadol will be on the banned list in the future and we feel that glucocorticosteroid and riding races shouldn’t be combined. That’s important, that part. It’s about riding races.”

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giobox [356 posts] 2 years ago
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Surprised at the negative reactions to Walsh's remarks. His point is valid, and he's done far more to clean up cycling than any of us can claim.

The remark from Sky, "said they could recall no such stance", with regards to in competition TUEs slightly contradicts their past comments. From page 72 of "Inside Team Sky" by David Walsh comes the following:

"Peters insists that Leinders was scrupulously ethical in his time with Sky. We agreed as a team that if a rider, suffering from asthma, got into trouble with pollen we would pull him out of the race rather than apply for a therapeutic use exemption on his behalf." - Team Sky's medical chief, Dr Steve Peters.

Yes, I know this quote refers to pollen, but using a TUE for a chest infection is arguably in principle the same. Using a TUE to allow an athlete to compete when they otherwise might not be able to.

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giobox [356 posts] 2 years ago
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farrell wrote:
notfastenough wrote:

So now that Walsh has written this, will the Sky hecklers please clarify something for me

I can clarify and confirm that Walsh is a petty, bitter man.

I suspect he may have been a bit in Sky's 'pocket' when he was given full access to them, probably got quite close to them. Certainly he got tight with Froome to the point that he was his ghostwriter for his autobiography.

Now he appears to have spat the dummy and is going after Team Sky and will no doubt stamp his feet and scream loudly until people listen to him.

This seems rather an unlikely explanation, as if true it makes Walsh himself look like an idiot. Hardly the actions of a petty man. He just wrote a glowing tribute to the team in "Inside Team Sky", practically a love letter. He has also made very clear he is a huge admirer of Chris Froome. He staked his own reputation on the team being clean. If he was wrong, he's going to look more than a little foolish, so I can't see him casting aspersions without cause. Having seen the man speak publicly on several occasions, and read his books and columns, I cannot see how the petty or bitter description applies.

In fact, the manner in which he has handled the Armstrong affair and the numerous court cases it pulled him into demonstrate an incredible lack of either.

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daddyELVIS [655 posts] 2 years ago
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giobox wrote:

"Peters insists that Leinders was scrupulously ethical in his time with Sky. We agreed as a team that if a rider, suffering from asthma, got into trouble with pollen we would pull him out of the race rather than apply for a therapeutic use exemption on his behalf." - Team Sky's medical chief, Dr Steve Peters.

Sky - caught red-handed bull-sh!tting. Spouting rubbish to justify their appointment of Leinders, only to get bitten on the ass at a later date when found out what BS it all is!

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andyp [1448 posts] 2 years ago
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'Nothing against Froome tho, I believe he's as cleaner rider as you'll find in the peleton'

This makes me lol. A lot.

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LJM [21 posts] 2 years ago
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There seem to be many valid and not so valid points here... The over riding theme seems to be a need for utter transparency, from all involved.

But, in this particular instance (treatment of asthma) I find myself wondering about the legitimacy of treating that in an elite athlete. After all, racing is a test of physical prowess; should this not be seen holistically?

I for instance have a very good set of lungs (I have an annual medical that tells me this) but I don't have the musculature of an elite athlete. I am not allowed to use medication to overcome my weakness, so why should any other 'weakness' be treated differently?

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Paul J [884 posts] 2 years ago
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LJM: I too suffer from a few medical conditions which tragically has curtailed my ability to earn a living as a professional cyclist. I think it's highly unfair that some athletes are favoured and allowed TUEs while other's (such as me) are not, simply based on which chronic condition they have.

Why should I be discriminated against, because my legs are unable to fully utilise the oxygen my lungs can deliver but I am now allowed to use the growth-promoting steroids which could fix this; while others who have the legs but apparently have lung problems are then allowed to use bronchio-dilatory steroids?

Goose, gander.

Where's my pro contract?

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Beaufort [270 posts] 2 years ago
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Remember not to criticise Froome or Michelle Cound will come and find you with a large stick.

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Skylark [153 posts] 2 years ago
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It is still Tuesday.

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spin sugar [48 posts] 2 years ago
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Paul J wrote:

LJM: I too suffer from a few medical conditions which tragically has curtailed my ability to earn a living as a professional cyclist. I think it's highly unfair that some athletes are favoured and allowed TUEs while other's (such as me) are not, simply based on which chronic condition they have.

Why should I be discriminated against, because my legs are unable to fully utilise the oxygen my lungs can deliver but I am now allowed to use the growth-promoting steroids which could fix this; while others who have the legs but apparently have lung problems are then allowed to use bronchio-dilatory steroids?

Goose, gander.

Where's my pro contract?

Well, Sky are yet to announce for the TdF and with all the injuries/grudges might be short a rider - keep your mobile on.