If WADA Had Teeth

If WADA Had Teeth

Several years ago I made the decision that pro cycling would stop being an active part of what we would cover of the world of cycling here at RKP. The reasons were few and straightforward.

Reason 1: Anger on the part of readers that the media (and by extension RKP) had not done more to keep them informed about the nature and the depth of the doping problem in professional cycling.

Reason 2: Cycling claims to have cleaned up, but there’s no way to prove that. While I personally believe that the sport is the cleanest it has ever been, it’s obviously not entirely clean, a point proven by ongoing positive tests.

Reason 3: The audience for pro cycling has communicated at great volume and with crystalline precision that it wants to watch a sport devoid of performance-enhancing drugs, and yet the sport is unwilling to deliver what the consumer wants.

Reason 4: I watched the reader numbers for our posts about pro cycling drop. Where we once had a readership for pro cycling on par with our posts about the cycling life and gear reviews, RKP readers stopped clicking on posts about racing.

Chris Froome’s recent positive for Salbutamol is quite the crucible. It demonstrates everything that is wrong with pro cycling. Froome’s doping denials over the years have been emphatic and frequent. It’s also worth noting that he sounds just like Lance Armstrong, and we know how the audience feels about that, and him.

I’m going to make one brief statement about asthma inhalers and bike racing. This is a personal opinion, but one I think may resonate with other people if they give it some thought.

If one is in the fucking lead group of the fucking Tour de France, wearing the fucking yellow jersey, one does not have fucking asthma.

Pulling out an inhaler isn’t a treatment that is rescuing him from a shortness of breath that prevents him from functioning as a normal human being. Look, I’ve had friends with serious asthma. Their inhalers allowed them to breathe and function like a normal person. Without their inhalers they had to do things like sit down on a bench to catch their breath while walking through the mall. Asthma is a serious, potentially life-threatening condition.

To my eye, Froome is receiving a demonstrable performance enhancement. I believe that the standard for doping where asthma (and any other similar condition) is concerned is that a therapeutic use ought to restore the athlete to a normal baseline of performance. It’s why I’d be okay with a TUE for testosterone for any male cyclist with the testosterone levels of a 10-year-old boy. An athlete with substandard bronchial performance would not be able to ride well enough to receive a pro contract, let alone be signed to Team Sky, much less lead their Tour de France squad.

Is it reasonable to expect cycling to be a clean sport? In my view, that question isn’t worth asking, or answering. Cycling fans have overwhelmingly made it clear that they want a clean sport. To ignore the audience is to proceed at great personal peril. And that’s the problem cycling finds itself in. It’s a tailspin of riders fearing that if they don’t perform, they won’t have a contract. And to perform some resort to doping. And some get caught. And then sponsors avoid the sport because they don’t want the bad press that comes with a positive test. So there are fewer teams. And it gets harder to get a spot on a team, so riders have a greater incentive to perform. And so on.

Doping drives out sponsors, but most riders are too self-interested to see the bigger picture. It’s evident given how widespread it remains that the consequences simply aren’t high enough. So let’s talk about consequences for a moment. Why do so few people rob banks? Easy. The odds of getting away with it are insanely low and the consequences for being caught are ruinously high. But in pro cycling there is a fair chance you won’t get caught and even if you are, your consequences aren’t all that high.

And what’s the one thing that still outrages people about retired pros who doped and were caught? That they earned money they weren’t entitled to.

It’s clear to me that unless WADA can secure a winnings forfeiture for all sanctioned athletes, the consequences simply won’t be high enough to sufficiently deter doping—at the pro ranks. I can’t begin to explain why masters athletes dope to win a medal. That craziness is best left to someone who actually cares about the results of masters racing, and I’m happy not to be that guy.

In summation, I bet if Chris Froome risked losing all his winnings for a doping violation he suddenly wouldn’t have asthma.


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  1. Tominalbany

    Except, as you say, he doesn’t have it! Reading Gaimon’s first book, I was a little saddened that he was asked if he ever got short of breath while walking up the stairs – or whatever the specific question was. I loved his written response and applaud him for it and for wanting to be totally clean.

    That said, it’s the entertainment industry. It’s a sport, sure. But, there’d be no money if it hadn’t been converted to entertainment many decades ago. Actors and actresses indulge in surgical doping all the time. Dental doping as well. Sylvester Stallone readily admits he takes testosterone and loves it and what it does for him. I don’t know that any of those entertainers ever receive any flack for doping.

    finally, if the full audience really wanted clean sport, then TV ratings will have fallen, along with sponsors going away. What do those numbers show? Is this why the UCI is going hard after more races outside of Europe/NA? Because the places with no racing don’t know or don’t care? I think there are many that just want entertainment and look at it like a movie. Sad? Perhaps.


    Maybe we need to go back to amateur only sports where WADA can really have some teeth? Oops. Russian doping cabal.

    I don’t think pro sports have the stomach to eliminate doping because it will cost them money. Lots and lots of money. NFL and doping? Nope! Those guys are 250 and elite fast due to a better diet and exercise! Same for baseball, NBA, soccer, etc. It’s a small wonder you don’t have anything coming out of those sports. Only in baseball, where a big segment of fans care about the lifetime statistics and where their favorites rank, has any real decline possibly occurred. But, I’d guess, it’s still going on and Baseball are not trying to keep up with current technology because, home runs put butts in the seats!

    That masters racing shit is just ego. In the pro ranks, it’s more money-related.

    1. AC

      Exactly. It’s all entertainment (also the reason that equal prize money is a farce – it’s not a matter of equality, it’s a matter of demonstrating that your product delivers to the advertisers – much like tv shows can charge higher ad rates if they have higher viewership). As an amateur, I’m interested in riding my bike in cool places and events, I care less and less what the pros do. I have limited time and attention to pay to things and they just aren’t getting much from me any more. I’m even getting to where I’ll consciously avoid brands with high profile pro sponsorships, as it just seems like a cost built into what I’m paying that I’d rather avoid.

  2. Jeff Dieffenbach

    Patrick, nicely put, but please don’t count my click on this article as interest in reading about pro cycling here! [grin] (Now, if you want to talk about pro CX, that’s a different story …)

  3. Steven

    The specifics of this case aside, a blanket statement of “if you’re in the lead group you don’t have Asthma” shows a lack of understanding of how Asthma actually works – especially Exercise Induced or Allergic Asthma. You can have perfectly normal lung function most of the time but then have a crippling attack that is triggered by some stimulus. Triggers can be as simple as mold/pollen or just cold air. It’s also my understanding that, common perceptions aside, Salbutamol in the dosages you see from an inhaler doesn’t really have any performance-enhancing aspect. It can’t give someone with normal lung function “extra function”, it can only return someone suffering an attack to their baseline.
    A friend who is normally a pretty talented cyclist collapsed recently at a cyclocross race because the abnormally cold air triggered an attack for her, and she’d forgotten her inhaler. It’s pretty frightening to see a normally strong, healthy person nearly suffocating for lack of a simple device.
    Look, the rest of this case are suspicious – the sudden spike in levels, how the normally robotic Sky team that supposedly controls for every possible scenario could somehow “mess up” the dosing that badly, etc. And it is every bit as damaging to the sport as you say.
    But your statement about Asthma is misleading and detracts from the rest of your article.

    1. Stuart

      I’m with you on this Steven. Patrick’s personal opinion about the plausibility of an elite athlete having asthma is simply not borne out by the facts. It’s very very common for elite athletes to have asthma. A friend was the coach for the Australian Triathlon Team and he mentioned once that half the team suffered from exercise induced asthma. It’s super common in swimmers. To be clear these are world class elite athletes – all making a professional living with asthma.

      They may not make the money of Froome but to say that an elite athlete would not be signed to a contract because they have asthma is not true. Geeze even Paula Radcliffe – one of the Marathon greats had asthma. In elite athletes the condition is identified and managed.

      How Froome got such a high urine concentration well that’s another question – but one which I think should be considered separately from assuming guilt based on obtaining treatment. I’m hoping it won’t be swept under the carpet and the results of the further investigations are made public.

    2. chris

      Completely agree with this. The doctor interviewed in velonews might have it right: The circumstances of Froome’s situation look more like a case of completely mismanaged excecise-induced asthma. But a paragraph from the end of that article really struck me:

      “The last thing to consider is, if his asthma is that bad and he keeps having to use that level of Salbutamol, then you’ve got to look at it from a health point of view and go, ‘Actually, are we endangering this athlete’s health by allowing him to compete if he’s continuing at that level of Salbutamol.’ That is, is there a point at which the team physician needs to step in and say, ‘Look, your asthma is not under control for the last three days, that’s not healthy. Maybe we need to withdraw you from the race.’
      Read more at http://www.velonews.com/2017/12/news/explainer-salbutamol-asthma-and-what-comes-next-for-froome_453676#1bUId4VrwcHb4StP.99

    3. Aar

      I agree completely. First, the point of the article is spot on.

      However, in my late 20s, my Allergist diagnosed me with exercise-induced asthma. During allergy season, I’d be cruising in the pack. Then, for no apparent reason, my lungs would “just shut down”, my heart rate would max out as I got flushed out of the pack to sit on the side of the road until the episode passed. An inhaler fixed that. It also didn’t give me any greater ability to drop the pack or move up to a faster one (believe me, I tried it – young and dumb). Fortunately for me, my asthma was due to the compound effects of allergies and exercise. As my allergies were brought under control by desensitization shots, the exercise induced asthma dissipated, then disappeared. The point is, through that experience, I buy the possibility of an elite athlete having exercise induced asthma for which a TUE would be appropriate.

      I’m not excusing Froome’s use of Salbutamol any more than I excused Petacchi’s. Whatever inhaled medication I was prescribed didn’t give me a performance boost in the way I used it. That does not mean that dopers have not found a performance enhancing method of Salbutamol use that works for their unique physiology.

    4. Bill

      I’ll throw another case that exercise induced asthma is absolutely a thing: my youngest kid was absolutely having a ball running cross country, but would have an attack near the end of each race. A friend who’s got EIA heard him wheezing and rattling crossing the finish line, and suggested we talk to our pediatrician, who diagnosed EIA, and gave our kid an Salbutamol inhaler. Now, one puff before each race and he can finish without his lungs closing up. He went from mid-back of the pack to mid-front of the pack; more importantly, his love of a sport was hugely increased knowing that asthma, not will, was why he was struggling more than the kids without EIA.

      My spouse and I hadn’t realized EIA was a thing, and we were trying to encourage our son to “push through” and tough it out, making him question himself.

    5. Author

      I don’t think anyone has tried to argue that EIA or EIB don’t exist. That’s preposterous. I would submit that salbutamol has done for your son exactly what it is supposed to do: restore him to a normal baseline of lung function. That’s quite different from what I think it provides Chris Froome.

  4. Quentin

    Sometimes Chris Froome does sound like Lance Armstrong, but I think there are differences. Lance constantly pointed to all of his passed drug tests as proof he is clean, while Chris has always acknowledged the impossibility of proving a negative. Also, Chris hasn’t sent his lawyers to ruin the lives of anyone who dare question him. This positive test will forever make me a little more skeptical of him, but his willingness to be polite in dealing with the skepticism will always make me like him more than Armstrong, or Wiggins, neither of whom ever could manage that much.

  5. Aaron

    “If one is in the fucking lead group of the fucking Tour de France, wearing the fucking yellow jersey, one does not have fucking asthma.”
    I agree.
    I also like the sounds of your conclusion of forfeiting winnings when caught doping.

  6. David

    As a physician, I must disagree. Exercise induced asthma is not only common among athletes in general, it is surprisingly common among elite athletes. If I’m not mistaken, it is particularly common among elite swimmers. Furthermore, there is no evidence in the medical literature that inhaled salbutamol will enhance performance in someone without bronchoconstriction (see, for example, Goubault C, Perault M, Leleu E, et al Effects of inhaled salbutamol in exercising non-asthmatic athletes Thorax 2001;56:675-679. They conclude “Neither endurance time nor post-exercise bronchodilation were significantly different between the treatments. Metabolic parameters were affected by exercise but not by treatment. Inhaled salbutamol, even in a high dose, did not have a significant effect on endurance performance in non-asthmatic athletes.”). I am not sure what the urine level means, but I don’t think this is at all the same as the Lance Armstrong debacle, and it is probably related to overuse of the inhaler. Remember that there is a real technique to using a metered dose inhaler properly (and most people do it wrong). If you deposit too much of the dose on the oral mucosa, you will get less deposition of the drug particles in the lung, and thereby less clinical bronchodilating effect. In turn, the patient may administer extra puffs in an attempt to get relief.

  7. AlMac

    At least Patrick is prepared to call it (rightly or wrongly).
    Top marks for having a strong opinion and putting it out there.

    Is there any evidence that Froome uses his inhaler while on the bike (or any other cyclist)? I’ve never noticed.

    We’re talking some very serious puffing to get to Froome’s levels.
    If things were really that bad that day why wasn’t anything said/seen/commented on.

    Following Stage 18 Chris Froome said (after a devastating break that put the knife into most of his rivals):
    “Once we got into the last climb our guys set a really high temp at the bottom and I was feeling a lot better today so it was great to gain a little bit of time that I lost. I think certainly some guys paid for their efforts on Wednesday and also for their attacks earlier on today. It’s good to bounce back again and morale is still good and the team still strong. We’re just looking forward to getting though these next couple of days.”

    So he had a huge day on the bike, managed to fit in the huge number of puffs he needed (presumably all before rolling up to the start line that morning – unless anyone saw him at it on his bike) and accidentally took on board more than 2 times a day’s worth of Salbutamol in that space of time?

    Looking forward to hearing the explanations.

    1. Author

      There are photos of Froome puffing on his inhaler in the middle of a stage. Sadly, I don’t have the rights to reproduce them, but they are out there.

  8. Shawn

    I raced with moderate exercise induced asthma. When it flared, I went slower.
    I raced with less muscle mass than some of my competitors, too. When we sprinted, they went faster.
    I could have puffed and gone faster. I suppose I could have injected steroids or hgh and sprinted faster. But competition is all about putting-up what you got against what they got. Sometimes you’re just slower. It’s not a system of oppression; some humans are just better made for certain things than others. It’s a very dangerous path that heads towards justifying measures designed to”bring you up to a normal level,” whatever that may be. Normal is what you got. Ramp it, bro!

    1. Paolo

      Very well said! I completely agree.
      If you start with exceptions this is the mess that you get.
      Ban for life, look how it bothered Lance…
      Retroactive return of income might be hard but at list the winning money.

  9. Ryan m

    In my opinion, if you get asthma while riding the tour, you bow out of the race. Simple as that. Plenty of riders have to bow out because their bodies don’t perform at the level needed to finish the tour. This is the reality of the tour and endurance sports in general.

    Sky is doping…it’s another postal service situation. That’s the way I see it and I can’t shake the feeling everytime I see them racing. I’m not even angry about it, just bored completely with cycling because of it. Well, that isn’t totally true; I have been digging women’s cyclocross racing quite a bit lately.

    Count me in as one of those riders/cyling fans that stopped paying attention because of all the doping scandals. One, it makes for one boring race, but also doubting the winners for years is something I just don’t want to bother with.

    1. Jeff

      Well said. It ought to be about the performance and not assisted performance due to “asthma inhailers”. If “extreme fitness” causes asthma and that person is required to drop out, than less than “extreme fitness” will be the optimal fitness level to participate and endure to win.

  10. Esteban

    “If one is in the fucking lead group of the fucking Tour de France, wearing the fucking yellow jersey, one does not have fucking asthma.”

    Another physician here agreeing with what has been noted above about this oddly vindictive quote in RKP – EIB is most definitely not asthma. There’s a lot of noncompetitive participants in all endurance sports – cycling or not – who simply cannot even enjoy participating without proper diagnosis and treatment of EIB. Please distinguish the two. I’ve been a longtime reader, but forcefully stated and misinformed opinions also cause readership to decline.

    OTOH, a more difficult question is how MUCH pharmaceutical aid EIB sufferers should get in competition. That’s a very, very tough line to draw.

    1. Author

      I’m willing to entertain further discussion of Froome’s diagnosis and the symptoms he experiences. While recent reports have referred to EIB, it has been reported repeatedly over the years that Froome’s diagnosis was full-on asthma, and that’s what my statement referred to.

  11. MCH

    I too, am growing tired of pro cycling. I still enjoy the drama of the classics, but the inevitability of the 2 and 3 week uphill time trials (tours) leaves me unimpressed and bored.

    As far as doping, I’m of the belief that the banned list of drugs should be eliminated and a very short list of permitted drugs should be substituted. The problem as I see it with the banned list is that teams/riders seem to be following the letter of the rules rather than the spirit. As such, they’re exploiting every loophole for incremental gains. Some also seem to be trying experimental drugs that are not yet on the banned list.

    In my opinion, keep it simple. Create a very short list of allowed drugs / quantities and be done with it. If a rider needs something not on the list – tough, don’t race.

    One final observation – likely heretical to some/many. The racing in general, and particularly in 3 week tours, was a lot more interesting during the doping / Armstrong era. As consumers of pro endurance sports what do we really want? Slow death marches to the finish or excitement and drama?

    1. Author

      Your final observation brings up an really interesting point. If you read behind-the-scenes accounts of the Vuelta and Giro in the ’70s and ’80s, it was commonly reported that the first four hours of a five-hour stage would be pedaled at an aerobic pace. Piano, as they say. Then the TV helicopters would come in and then the racing would really be on. The Tour, based on what I’ve read, was a different beast. It’s not unfair to observe that oxygen-vector doping was an understandable response to all-day coverage of grand tours.

  12. dG

    Hi Padraig, I agree with you 100%, and would like to add that the sport’s infrastructure is to blame – Lance was right on the money with that assertion (I don’t like Lance btw). Regardless of the insightfullness of your piece, it *tires* me to no end how now every single journalist, sycophant, pseudo-doctors, sky-fanboys are contorting themselves into a pretzel to rationalize or justify Froome’s doping. Never mind the mental gyrations that Brailsford had the temerity to offer us this past summer, when news leaked of the jiffy bag or whatever it is they were trying so lamely to hide. Never mind Froome’s wicked accelerations, his physical transformation. Never mind that other riders, namely Ulissi and Pettacchi, got into trouble for a lot less in terms of abusing their TUE. Never mind that I have the general feeling, again, that Sky is “too big to fail”. I have no vendetta against Sky or Brailsford or Wiggins. They’re doing their job, and some could argue they’re very successful at it. But come on, guys; it’s doping. Brailsford can spin and gesticulate and provide his non-answer bromides, but the fans are seeing right through it. I have asthma, I use an inhaler, and let me tell you: there is no way you’d be winning both Tour and Vuelta as an asthmatic. The level of nonsense bullshit we have to sit through in order to get to the bottom of this is beyond insulting. WADA and Sky should put on their big boy pants and suspend Froome until this is resolved. Actions would be a better conveyor of their dignity, and the low profile would offer cover while they sort themselves out. Until then, Sky can go **** themselves. This is ridiculous.

  13. Author

    Thanks everyone for your comments, even those of you who disagree. I’ll reiterate that I’ve experienced EIA. With time I became sensitive enough to an attack coming on that I could get my puffer out and get a rescue dose quickly enough to avoid seeing stars. I’ve had friends, teammates and a girlfriend who had asthma and I watched them experience attacks on the bike. Even if we grant that Froome is sensitive to the signs of an oncoming attack, he shows zero outward signs of impairment, which begs the question of whether or not he is preemptively using his puffer, and wouldn’t using a rescue puffer prior to actually having symptoms be doping? I think if we surveyed the number of diagnosed asthmatics in the pro peloton it would not reflect the rate found in the general population. It’s my belief that Team Sky, and other teams, have used aids like asthma medications and pain relievers like Tramadol in ways that are simply incompatible with what people want to see when they express a desire for clean sport.

    1. Aar

      “It’s my belief that Team Sky, and other teams, have used aids like asthma medications and pain relievers like Tramadol in ways that are simply incompatible with what people want to see when they express a desire for clean sport.”

      Fully agree. Full stop.

    2. David

      The question of intent aside, which is subject to reasonable speculation, there is a lot of uninformed and non-scientific opinion based on emotion and not on fact being bandied about in this thread. I suggest that before anyone (especially without a medical background) makes “authoritative” pronouncements based on personal experience or hearsay on what is or is not asthma, how no one with asthma can be an elite athlete, how one should treat EIB, etc., that they stop for a moment and read a bit of the medical literature. I suggest starting here: Asthma and Exercise-Induced Bronchoconstriction in Athletes. Louis-Philippe Boulet, M.D., and Paul M. O’Byrne, M.B. N Engl J Med 2015; 372:641-648February 12, 2015 DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1407552
      You can find the NEJM in any medical library in the world (you can download the manuscript on line, but if you don’t have a subscription you have to pay). It’s the highest impact clinical journal in the world’s medical literature. This is a review article, and the technical aspects are not too difficult for the layman.

    3. Author

      This is where we differ. This issue isn’t whether EIB can restrict athletic performance. The NEJM, as respected as that publication is, cannot settle the issue before us. That issue is one of purpose. I don’t see intent as open to speculation. I fundamentally believe that Salbutamol is a foundational part of Sky’s playbook, along with Tramadol and a host of other practices that I see as incompatible with clean racing. Not that I think Salbutamol is absolutely incompatible with clean racing, but at the concentrations found in his blood, dehydration aside, is great enough to offer improved performance. They have a stated ethos of “marginal gains” which reads, to me and many others, as bending the rules until you hear them flex.

  14. David Huntsman

    Isn’t the suspicion that Froome is illegally orally ingesting salbutamol for the effect of decreasing fat and increasing lean muscle mass, and only puffing on the inhaler as a cover-up for its presence in his blood?

    1. Author

      Yes, there is a suspicion that the Salbutamol is for weight loss and that he’s not asthmatic at all, which makes the inhaler de facto doping. However, the concentration of Salbutamol in his blood was too high to come solely from an inhaler, which is the curiosity about dehydration.

  15. Steve Courtright

    Setting aside the apparently arguable particulars of this single event, what this does for me is point to the intentional practice of playing right up against the borders of what is permitted by the rules. The effect of the rules is to encourage everyone to dope to an extent that is permitted and thereby establishes a culture not about riding clean but about managing the amount one dopes. It’s like the speed limit. 55 is posted and 9 mph over is fine (wink, wink) but 11 over and you get a ticket. I suspect that the peloton is all going 9 over.

    1. MCH

      I tend to believe this also. What I find so ironic about this though, is that the same logic seems to have been applied by McQuaid, et al during the Armstrong era, albeit on a much grander scale.

      If this is indeed the case, than Sky is the Postal of the current era. They’re simply “playing the game” better than other teams. Following this train of thought, who’s in the wrong? Sky for walking closer to the edge of the rules or the other teams that stay a bit further away? I don’t have a particular opinion one way or the other, ’cause I don’t follow this nonsense anymore. It does seem like Postal all over again to me, though.

    2. Debbie

      Exactly. Before the epo test, you were fine as long as your hematocrit did not exceed 50%. Open season for everyone with natural hematocrit below 50% to boost right up to that limit. And if you were competitive at 43%, imagine how good you’d be at 49.9.

      But I wonder … if it’s OK boost up to normal levels, shouldn’t racers like Harrison Bergeron with greater than natural levels be handicapped in some way, you know, so it’s a level playing field?

  16. S M

    Well put. RKP is the only cycling site I visit or follow anymore. My interest in the racing side of our sport has fizzled. I’m too tired of the doping, the lying, the ego, the everything. I hear everyone’s points about asthma and yes, there are many facets. The fact is there is a regulation on a drug with a limit. If a rider crosses that limit then they have broken a rule they agreed to follow. End of story. Sure, there are times when they test positive and may have no control of how it happened. Tough luck. You agreed and the court of arbitration can hear you case. Time for everyone to stop making excuses for anyone that tests positive. The history of doping in cycling paints the picture now. Giving anyone a break in today’s cycling world is akin to giving a third chance to a repeat offender in the criminal court.

  17. Steven Toby

    Selfishly, I am very interested in how the resolution of this episode will actually end up pertaining to me. I am certainly an advocate of fair play. As a lifelong Asthmatic, endurance sport has always been a struggle. When my Asthma is well controlled, I would term myself as slightly better than mediocre on the bike. When Asthma rears it’s ugly head, my performance not only suffers, I am usually off the bike and out of competition. Until now, I have used my puffer in the open for all to see. The hope being that if anyone had a problem with me using it, we could discuss it. I fear that the uninformed backlash from whatever nefarious action has occurred in this case will force me to retreat to private places to administer what to me is a medical necessity.

    1. Author

      I probably don’t have a right to speak for others who ride with you, but when I’ve seen people use inhalers, and they aren’t busy riding everyone off their wheel, I see no reason to gripe. As long as you seem like a mortal, what is there to complain about?

  18. RJ

    The excuses I’ve been reading about this, as well as all the excuses of Wiggins’ TUE use during tours, just goes to show that cycling can excuse anything. If you ever want to know how Postal happened and Lance won 7 tours without anybody stopping him, it’s becuase of the excuses. Every single time a rider gets popped up come the excuses about how this can be dismissed because blah, blah, blah. It’s oh so lame. It makes cycling look lame too.

    At least there aren’t any excuses when a rider gets popped with a motor in their bike.

  19. DR

    It’s time for racing to be done on bread and water. If a rider needs any medication of any sort they need to sit out of competition until that drug can no longer be an advantage to them. If anything is found in their blood or urine they are done, forever. Once banned, they can’t work in the sport, no coaching, no commentating, no nothing. Cycling needs to decide if it wants to be clean or not and take a stand.

  20. David

    Padraig wrote: “I fundamentally believe that Salbutamol is a foundational part of Sky’s playbook, along with Tramadol and a host of other practices that I see as incompatible with clean racing.”
    Could well be- he and the team might be using it with that intent, but…
    “Not that I think Salbutamol is absolutely incompatible with clean racing, but at the concentrations found in his blood, dehydration aside, is great enough to offer improved performance.”
    The problem with this is that all the scientific evidence shows that it does NOT improve performance. I am curious as to where the WADA limits came from, and why this level was chosen if here is no good evidence that it is a PED (especially in those who do not have asthma). You are suggesting that he is using (oral?) salbutamol for weight loss and building lean muscle mass, and that he doesn’t have asthma? That is reasonably easy to determine with provocative testing in a good PFT lab- maybe that is where this should all start (or maybe that has already been done). It would also be hard to say this is so if there was only an elevated drug level on one day- based on the pharmacokinetic profile of the drug and how it would need to be used for that purpose, the level should not spike only for one day, but would be chronically elevated. If all of his other samples were clean this one high level points much more to inhaler overuse. I don’t know about Froome, but I have asthma, and I know on the rare occasion that I overuse my inhaler I get jittery and feel like crap, and my performance decreases!

    1. Author

      I’m not suggesting he’s using oral salbutamol; there is photographic evidence of him using it during the Tour de France.

  21. souleur

    Padraig: Excellent points and excellent observations

    I think going back to the best I’ve seen yet, I love the observation you made, which is a fact that each of us have made: “If one is in the f***ing lead group of the f***ing Tour de France, wearing the f***ing yellow jersey, one does not have f***ing asthma

    That really is it, bonified and I bet he cannot quantify that scientifically in any way shape nor form

    Alberto was penalized and lost his malliot juane for using Clenbuterol if I am not mistaken, and I’m sure we all remember the lie, because after alli, it was in beef he ate supposedly, and in reality, he was taking it for weight loss

    And look at Froome, the man is a skeleton with lungs and legs
    And every conversation it seems we go back and forth on great little details on levels, and what is accepted and what is not an nanograms and so on and so forth, like the technicality of who did the PFTs and is it reliable, or at sea level or, and etc etc etc….I think we get the point, its circular and less meaningful….the details….and it really does come down to remembering, HEs the LEADER in the TdF, LEADER of Team SKY, LEADER of the pack….He really doesn’t have asthma, nor exercise induced asthma

    I don’t buy it
    This I guarantee is a fact and guarantee the meausure of what is allowed in urine/serum, is NO salbutemol, ITS NOT A NATURAL substance folks and it is well evidenced he takes it regularly as many have witnessed

    And there IS a reason he would take it, to cut a little weight and increase performance in that

    At what point do we go back to just common sense on the subject and look at the big picture and remember with some levity that if what they say isn’t believable…..like…I have asthma and use this to WIN the F***ing Tour…..that doesn’t really make sense

    and yes, BTW, I treat people all the time as a nurse practitioner and know the science behind this too
    Its a hard concept to believe that sometimes people have nefarious motives and lie in order to win

  22. JASON

    I’m have some trouble understanding the Chris Froome hate.

    1. He’s not guilty of taking a banned substance or a cleared substance with a banned method.

    2. How is the UCI in a position to regulate how much someone can absorb their own asthma medicine or expell it after the fact?

    3. How is everyone suddenly sure he is on EPO?

    4. I was not a cyclist during the Armstrong era but how is everyone sure of Froome’s guilt because of the Armstrong era when everyone knows that every notable racer before Lance became successful WITH the aid of a banned substance?

    5. There are no failed blood or stool tests to speak of about Chris Froome, correct? He is guilty of having expelled too much of the asthma medicine to which he is rightly entitled, right? He has not attacked anyone for accusing him, right? He has not won stages by the amount seen in the Armstrong era, right?

    6. With the possible exception of Peter Sagan more money is spent on Chris Froome than any other rider by at least 5x so why should he not be as successful as he is and the argument against it be about a salary/expenditures cap?

    7. Isn’t the whole premise of the team sky’s tdf squad essentially GC contenders paid to ride as domestiques for a slightly more promising GC contender?

    What am I missing?

    1. Author

      There are several orders of magnitude difference between being an elite endurance athlete and winning the Tour de France four times.

    2. Alistair Brooks

      Agreed but as has been stated above, Paula Radcliffe has asthma (diagnosed aged 14) and a quick look at the marathon all time list shows that she literally, word used advisedly, defines what is possible in endurance sport.

      Almost one in ten people in Britain have asthma, I don’t know the prevalence in the US. I can assure you from a professional perspective that there is a huge spread of severity – many people with the diagnosis don’t even carry their inhalers – so seeing a few asthma attacks does not give you the whole picture. I’m not absolving Frroome af all, but the basis of your theory, that he cannot possibly have asthma is palpably wrong. Thank you for replying though.

    3. Author

      It would be interesting to check whether or not Radcliffe’s performance in any marathon ever was harmed by an asthma attack. This is something I’ve never examined. I mention this because there are several orders of magnitude difference between running a world-class performance in a marathon (or even several) and winning the Tour de France four times. That’s north of 400 hours of performance unmarred by asthma. Statistically, I just don’t see it.

  23. Alistair Brooks

    I think we agree on more than we disagree on. I would be bitterly disappointed if asthma is a smokescreen in the Sky hierarchy. With apparently around 40% of the peloton claiming EIB and legit Salbutamol use I suppose it’s possible though. Have a great New Year

  24. Big Bag of Nope

    Pieces like this are why I no longer read RKP. The statement “If one is in the fucking lead group of the fucking Tour de France, wearing the fucking yellow jersey, one does not have fucking asthma[,]” is demonstrably false. It demonstrates a lack of understanding of basic physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. Be a good journalist (or a good columnist) and take this piece down, spend a few days reading up on the basics asthma and its treatment, and try again (i.e., demonstrate humility—something that’s sorely lacking in the cycling industry).

  25. chris

    Adding a recent review of the relevant literature and data (by a physician): http://www.velonews.com/2018/03/the-outer-line/the-outer-line-can-science-rescue-chris-froome_460424

    As many have stated in the string above, the most likely explanation for the AAF is improper use of a puffer in the 24 hrs preceding the doping control. The thought that a puffer prescription could be used as a “cover” for illegal use of salbutamol (i.e. long-term use with oral/injected administration, to leverage the lean muscle mass/weight ratio) is interesting, but that presumably would have led to AAFs on other days, unless you had supreme confidence in your dosing. They are Team Sky; maybe they do…

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