Tony Martin, the four-time time trial world champion, has launched a stinging attack on cycling’s governing body over what he sees as preferential treatment given to Team Sky and Chris Froome in the wake of his abnormal test result.
On Wednesday it was revealed that Froome had twice the allowed limit of the asthma drug Salbutamol in his system, following a urine sample taken on 7 September after Stage 18 of the Vuelta a Espana. Froome was allowed to continue racing, winning the Vuelta and competing at the Road World Championships on 17 and 20 September – the same day Team Sky were notified of the test result by the UCI.
Froome was not automatically banned and will now have the chance to explain the test result to the UCI before a decision is taken over whether he will be stripped of his Vuelta title, with the possibility of a suspension from competition.
Martin, who rides for Katusha-Alpecin, wrote in a post on Facebook: “I’m totally angry. In the case of Christopher Froome, it is definitely a double standard. Other athletes are immediately suspended after a positive test. He and his team were given time by the UCI to explain themselves. I do not know of any similar cases in the recent past. This is a scandal, and he should at least not have been allowed to appear in the World Championships.
“For me and the public there is immediately the impression that there are agreements going on behind the scenes, agreements are being made and ways are being sought as to how to get out of this case. Do he and his team enjoy a special status?
“These actions lead to the serious anti-doping struggle that I and riders like Marcel Kittel are leading. We need a consistent and transparent approach by the UCI. What is going on here is inconsistent, not transparent, unprofessional and unfair.”
The UCI explained in a statement on Wednesday that Salbutamol is among a list of drugs allowed up to a certain limit and which do not carry automatic bans when found to have been used in excess. The statement read: “Pursuant to Article 7.9.1. of the UCI Anti-Doping Rules, 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.”
Vincenzo Nibali, who finished second in the Vuelta behind Froome, also voiced his frustration at the news and said it was “not a great day” for Froome and for cycling. “Today the world of sport has received bad news: if the news is confirmed, then nobody could give me back the chance to stand on the top step of the podium in Madrid. I’m sure time will give us answers.”
And on Thursday Michael Rasmussen, the retired Danish rider who admitted he had used performance-enhancing drugs for most of his career, criticised a tweet by Chris Froome which bemoaned “the misconceptions that are out there about athletes and Salbutamol”.
“There are plenty of asthmatic athletes competing at high level in XC-skiing, swimming,cycling and running,” Rasmussen said. ”If they had problems staying below the threshold of 1000 nanogram/ml urine, Wada would be drowning in positive tests for Salbutamol. So please don’t bring in the asthmatics.”