Leaking of Chris Froome’s failed drugs test harmed cycling – Julie Harrington

Martha Kelner
The Guardian
<span class="element-image__caption">Chris Froome’s adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a España is ‘being debated in the court of public opinion’, said Julie Harrington.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images</span>
Chris Froome’s adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol at the 2017 Vuelta a España is ‘being debated in the court of public opinion’, said Julie Harrington. Photograph: NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Publicity surrounding Chris Froome’s failed drugs test has dealt a reputational blow not only to himself but the entire sport, according to the British Cycling chief executive, Julie Harrington.

The four-times Tour de France winner failed a urine test taken during the Vuelta a España in September last year. He went on to become the first Briton to win the race, recording his fifth Grand Tour victory, but a joint investigation between the Guardian and Le Monde revealed the test indicated twice the permitted level of the asthma drug salbutamol in his system.

Harrington said she was disappointed the failed test had become public knowledge while Froome and his legal team are seeking to provide an explanation for the adverse finding. “The issue in this case is that the process was leaked and while somebody is trying to prove either way why they had that adverse analytical finding it’s being debated in the court of public opinion,” Harrington said.

“That’s a blow to cycling’s reputation, the individual athlete’s reputation. You only need to look at Twitter feeds and the comments below articles and people will make up their own mind based on not having the full evidence, which is a shame.

“I would rather that information hadn’t been leaked and we were able to deal either with a situation where an athlete is banned and then as a national governing body it’s pretty clear what our position is. Or, alternatively, where the athlete was able to prove a real reason for that AAF and carry on with their careers as normal.”

Froome claims he increased the dosage of medication on medical advice when his asthma symptoms worsened during the Vuelta. Both he and Team Sky are adamant this remained within the legal limits and are seeking to prove there is a legitimate reason why he failed the test. It is thought this process, which could involve replicating the exact physiological conditions of the Vuelta, may last several more months.

Despite British Cycling being made aware of the failed test, Froome was later selected to compete for Great Britain at the world time trial championships where he won a bronze medal. Harrington defended that decision.

“Chris Froome isn’t banned and he is available for selection,” she said. “There is an option for an athlete to rule themselves out of being available for selection and Chris hasn’t chosen to do that so under the rules of racing he is available and it’s innocent until proven guilty.”

When asked if Froome would be selected to race in a Great Britain jersey again, Harrington said: “When we approach a race where we’re looking at selection decisions, we’ll have a choice to make at that point.”

The governing body announced Frank Slevin, the executive chair of House of Fraser, as its new chairman, the third person to take the role in a year after the resignation of Jonathan Browning. Slevin used his first day in the job to question the wisdom of Bob Howden continuing as the president of British Cycling despite the board during his tenure being widely considered as unfit for purpose.

“It’s safe to say I am surprised,” Slevin said. “One of the reviews determined the previous conduct of the board had been inept, inexcusable, so I think responsibility needs to be taken for that. I do believe in a bright line and I think we ought to be reviewing that situation.”

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