Darth Vader wins again!

May 29, 2018 § 3 Comments

When Chris Froome dashed away for a little 80 km solo breakaway and “pulled a Landis” to ride himself into the pink jersey at the Giro, it seemed a bit much, even for the severely disabled #fakesport of professional cycling.

I mean, a guy who is currently in the death throes of a doping investigation that will certainly find him guilty of cheating, suddenly vaulting himself atop the Tour of Italy, from whence he will be de-throned once his doping positive is upheld … doesn’t anyone see how this will play out?

Of course they do, but like an alcoholic who knows exactly which gutter he’s going to wind up in when he takes the first drink, pro cycling can’t help itself. So Darth Froome will not only win and then be stripped of his Giro crown, but he will also win the Turdy France and have that jersey torn off his back as well. This will inspire generations of parents to say to their children, “Don’t you fucking dare start bike racing.”

So that at least is a benefit.

After being stripped of his jerseys and publicly humiliated, some second-place schmo who didn’t dope as well for as long will be awarded Froome’s victories and say, “I’d rather not have won it this way,” when what he means is “I’m sure glad that Darth got busted and not me,” followed by “Where’s my check?”

Cynicism is the new optimism

Darth isn’t to be blamed for vacuuming up the spoils and sashaying onto the next grand tour. This salbutamol thing is vexing, to be sure, but it goes with the territory, and better to win a couple of tours and have them taken away than to stay home and not ever win them at all. And who knows? Tyler’s vanishing twin theory may actually be proven true this time, exonerating Darth fully.

Darth’s ride on Stage 19 in this Giro was summed up by Sean Kelly  in one word: “Unbelievable.” It’s the most that he could have said without being sued for defamation.

But Froome, laughing all the way to Milan, made no bones about the fact that pro cycling fans are the stupidest humans alive. Refusing to share his power data, which would have shown how his Stage 19 performance really occurred, Darth instead said that “It was interesting to see yesterday I made up most of my time on the descents by the looks of it.”

Ah, yes, of course. He beat the world’s best time trialists and climbers on a mountainous stage at the end of the Giro by going downhill faster than anyone else. Who needs to see actual power data to confirm that? Not Froome, the maniacal marginal-gains data wonk, that’s for sure. “No, I’m not looking at the computer, I’m riding as hard as I can.”

Yes, old school, Eddy Merckx style, exactly what Team Vader is best known for.

Fortunately, Froome and Brailsford’s Trumpian “offense always” approach is already lined up and spit-polished for the Tour. According to Froome,  “I’m certainly planning to go there and give it everything.”

And by everything, I’m sure he means, uh, everything.



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Giro d’Italia wrap-up

May 15, 2018 § 3 Comments

The Giro is on Stage Ten, which means there are nine previous stages and a rest day that no one has paid any attention to. Let’s catch up on the exciting news, along with a few behind-the-scenes quotes from the stars.

Stage One: Jerusalem Time Trial

Winner: Tom Dumoulin

Race summary: Machines rode machines.

Winner’s quote: “It’s been awesome getting to race here the year that the U.S. is finally moving its embassy to Jerusalem. A few dozen Palestinian protesters may get murdered, but I’m proud to stand with the Donald, Ivanka, and Jared.”

Stage Two: Haifa to Tel Aviv

Winner: Elia Viviani

Race Summary: #Fakebreakaway establishes #fakegap until race directors order #robots to chase #fakebreak and #boringrace ends in a #bunchsprunt.

Winner’s quote: “We’re athletes, not politicians. Just because Muhammed Ali went to prison for his principles doesn’t mean anything. Our contracts don’t require us to have principles.”

Stage Three: Be’er Sheva to Eilat

Winner: Elia Viviani

Race Summary: #Fakebreakaway establishes #fakegap until race directors order #robots to chase #fakebreak and #boringrace ends in a #bunchsprunt.

Winner’s quote: “This has been the most magnificent Giro ever. Next year I hope we can start the Giro in Myanmar, or North Korea.”

Stage Four: Catania to Caltagirone

Winner: Tim Wellens

Race Summary: #Fakebreakaway establishes #fakegap until race directors order #robots to chase #fakebreak and #boringrace ends in a #bunchsprunt.

Winner’s Quote: “It was really exciting watching our power numbers and calculating exactly how it would all end. We weren’t sure it would work out like it does 99.9% of the time … but it did!”

Stage Five: Agrigento to Santa Ninfa

Winner: Enrico Battaglin

Race Summary: #Fakebreakaway establishes #fakegap until race directors order #robots to chase #fakebreak and #boringrace ends in a #bunchsprunt.

Winner’s Quote: “Our team director made sure all of our computers were synched so we could dial it in like a science. The fans were crazy, they were so excited!”

Stage Six: Caltanissetta to Etna

Winner: Esteban Chaves

Race Summary: Froome got dropped, causing everyone who follows pro cycling at all to rejoice.

Winner’s Quote: “It was like a chess match, a chess match with power meters so we could all know that it was, you know, more or less pre-determined. That’s how chess is, right? I’ve never played, myself.”

Stage Seven: Pizzo to Praia a Mare

Winner: Sam Bennett

Race Summary: #Fakebreakaway establishes #fakegap until race directors order #robots to chase #fakebreak and #boringrace ends in a #bunchsprunt.

Winner’s Quote: “Incredible excitement for the fans, and for the racers, too. The breakaway could have pulled it off, really.” [snickers]

Stage Eight: Praia a Mare to Montevergine di Mercogliano

Winner: Richard Carapaz

Race Summary: Ecuadorian gets first ever Giro win for his country, but most of the attention goes to Froome, whose asthma has 100% recovered, resulting in a fall and more lost time.

Winner’s Quote: “Eight boring stages, one exciting win. This is what makes pro cycling the world’s greatest spectator sport!”

Stage Nine: Pesco Sannita – Gran Sasso d’Italia (Campo Imperatore)

Winner: Simon Yates

Race Summary: Froome continues to tank. Haters gonna hate!

Winner’s Quote: “I win the fuggin’ stage. I’m the first Briton ever in the pink jersey, not counting Elton John, who was in a different pink jersey for completely different reasons. And what do they write about? Froomey flopping.”

Stage Ten: Penne – Gualdo Tadino

Winner: Matej Mohoric

Race Summary: Yates’s teammate and “co-leader” Chaves loses 25 minutes. Yates stays in pink, does best schadenfreude ever in the history of cycling. “It would have been better for me if he was still there in the classification.”

Winner’s Quote: “I dedicate this win to every person who has ever confused Slovenia with Slovakia. Which is pretty much everyone.”



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Charming Peter Sagan

April 13, 2018 § 8 Comments

I vaguely remember when Peter Sagan became famous, and I remember hearing that he was from Slovakia. I have always had an allergy to all those Balkan and Eastern European countries. Once you leave Germany everything was very vague, and the Slavic countries were the vaguest.

Those “over there” countries included Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, not to mention Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and of course Hungary, which is like Turkey in that you wonder, “Why did the Turks name their country after our Thanksgiving bird? And why did the Hungarians name their country after a ravenous feeling in the pit of the stomach?”

So I didn’t pay any attention to Slovakia, Peter Sagan’s native land, because, well, how can you pay attention to a country you can’t even find on the map?

How times change

Nowadays I’m very invested in Slovakia. Three days a week I sit down at my computer and take Slovak lessons with real, honest-to-goodness Slovaks in Slovakia speaking Slovak. In me they have found a butcher of the beautiful Slovak tongue. In them I have found out about Sagan. And one thing you learn pretty quickly is that Peter Sagan is a big deal in Slovakia along the lines of saying UY Scuti is a big deal in the constellation Scutum.

Slovakia has about 5.4 million people, roughly 40% of the population of the greater L.A. metro area, and is only about 20% larger in area. And unlike Los Angeles, which has a surfeit of famous athletes to spread around among those millions, Slovakia’s list of superstars is considerably shorter, and its only truly world-conquering athlete ever is Peter Sagan.

So it’s pretty easy to see how things like Sagan’s baby became a riveting national story. And being a student of Slovak, I now get a front row seat to the show.

Most charming athlete ever?

When you listen to Sagan speak, it’s a bit surprising. He has that Jack Nicklaus squeak, which always catches you off guard as you expect the vainquer of Roubaix, Flanders, and the Worlds to speak with a deep manly voice resonating testosterone and back hair.

And to his credit, his interviews in English are very good; I’m pretty sure the day will never come when I can answer a media scrum in fluent Slovak after a grueling, 7-hour Monument. But it’s still his second language, and a distant second.

When you watch him interviewed in Slovak, he impresses with his charm and his repartee. His facial expressions and his jokes transform his Slovak interviewers from fanboy journalists into slaveboys.

And a fan club? Of course!

But the best way to get a sense for Sagan is to visit YouTube and do a search for “Sagan rozhovor.” You’ll pull up a huge string of Slovak interviews. You may not understand them, but after a few minutes of watching him talk … you won’t need to.



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Tom Petty wouldn’t, either

February 5, 2018 § 3 Comments

Chris Froome’s dope-em-up continues to whip the tifosi into an ever finer souffle, with silly pronouncements following ridiculous demands and culminating in today’s CyclingNews fanboy plea, “Froome should suspend himself for the good of the sport.”

I would like to direct your attention to a popular song written by the recently-departed Tom Petty: “I Won’t Back Down,” and imagine that it is being sung by “Puffer” Froome. Because he’s not backing down.

The gist of the CyclingNews fanboy piece is that Froome has a moral obligation to suspend himself for the good of the sport. Fanboy Whittle, author of this deep piece, urges Puffer to suspend himself so that he can be “on the right side of history,” presumably because 300 years from now when people are looking at the pivotal moments that decided the course of human events, all eyes will be turned on how Puffer behaved at this moment, like Sir Neville Chamberlain and “peace in our time,” or something like that. Heady stuff, that underpants-bicycling fake sport thing.

The Whittler concludes by making clear what the stakes are should Puffer not do the right thing: “If Froome competes and wins a Grand Tour only to be later sanctioned, then he and his team will forever be seen under the same dark cloud as those that came before them.”

Wow. I think if I were Chris Froome reading that I would dash out to the nearest UCI firing squad, pin myself against a wall, and take my medicine.

Just kidding, no I wouldn’t.

If I were Chris Froome I’d be doing what Chris Froome is already doing: Training like a MoFo and getting ready to win the Giro and his fifth Tour. “Being under the same dark cloud as those that came before them?” I think Fanboy Whittle means “doping,” and here’s why his entire argument is a floofy frumpum of whompynoddle.

Let’s start with rules and due process. Froome hasn’t suspended himself because he hasn’t committed a doping infraction, yet. Who set up the rules allowing Froome to use up to 1,000 mL of Salbutamol despite knowing that it is a proven doping agent, and has been used as such for over twenty years? Why, that would be the UCI.

Who set up the rules saying that testing positive for too much salbutamol didn’t require an automatic suspension? Why, that would be the UCI.

And now we’re supposed to believe that a guy who makes 4.5 million euros a year riding his bicycle is going to toss into the can the very protections created by the organizing body that is now going to have to give him due process? And his reason for that would be what, exactly?

Fanboy Whittle says it’s ethics and morals and the good of the sport and the stakeholders, a stinking smorgasbord of sweet-sounding piffle if ever there was one.

“Ethics and morals”? Most people would say that following rules put in place to give an athlete the chance to prove his innocence is both ethical and moral, and, as everyone knows but glosses over, legal as well. (Oh. Yeah. Right.) Froome may be guilty but he still gets to put on his case; stripping him of those rights or demanding that he forego them is the very antithesis of ethical and moral.

“The good of the sport”? What does that even mean? That Froome somehow sees cycling as a noble and divine endeavor whose integrity all good cyclists have a sworn duty to defend? The sport of professional European cycling has proven itself at every turn to be a mean, exploitative, drug-ridden, mafia-like cult that puts a few at the pinnacle, grinds up the rest and tosses them on the trash heap. Pro cycling was and is a doper shitshow, and even if there were something pure and beautiful about it, why would anyone expect Froome to know or care? He rides for Team Skye and David Brailsford. His job is to win races without getting busted, not to honor some silly ideal.

“The stakeholders”? Who in the world could this possibly be, except for the owners of the Giro and the Tour? These are the very two entities, especially the Tour, who have done so much to keep pro cycling a provincial, corrupt, balkanized fake-sport, preventing its growth, keeping the cost of entry out of reach, and ensuring that the racers are impoverished and desperate from year to year. Froome is supposed to care about them?

Whittle does make mention of the fans but wisely doesn’t go too far in their defense because everyone who follows pro cycling even casually and doesn’t know that the pro peloton dopes is an imbecile. Fanboy Whittle needs to reflect that he is writing thinly disguised ad copy for a sport where they just busted fourteen racers for EPO in a single race, more than a decade after the EPO era supposedly ended.

Consider his options: Give away a few million euros, lose the chance to race, and by sitting out admit to what everyone is saying anyway–that he’s a cheat. Or, stay in the game, collect a few more million euros, win the big races, run the risk that he’s retroactively stripped, and have people say what they are saying anyway–that he’s a cheat.

Contador faced this same choice and said “Thank you, I’ll take your money and my chances.” He lost the titles but kept the cash.

Froome will, too.



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About Cycling in the South Bay: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.

Dummy talk

January 26, 2018 Comments Off on Dummy talk

Chris Froome delivered an early Christmas gift during the off season when he tested positive for way-too-much salbutamol, giving bloggers, cyclists stuck on Zwift in the basement for the winter, and fanboy journalists tons of fodder to get through the lull in the pro road racing season. Unfortunately, many foolish things were said, and more unfortunately, all of this dummy talk recorded in print.

David Lapparient, president of the UCI: “This is bad for the image of cycling.” Is it? How? Cycling’s image is and has been and will always be doping, with Lance as the always-relevant cheater, hopscotching from race to race, delivering air-light pronouncements and analysis on the fake sport he fakishly ruined.

Javier Guillén, director of the Vuelta: “It’s concerning. We can’t take any part in it, either in favour or against, obviously.” Uh … this guy is about to get banned and have his Vuelta title stripped, doing immense damage to your race, and you can’t take sides?

Alberto Contador, former banned doper: “You can’t have cases drag on and on, it has to be dealt with quickly.” What does this even mean? You have due process or you don’t. What’s the mechanism for “quickly” having Froomester do a lab-replication to show he wasn’t doping, and/or for “quickly” getting a CAS appeal heard? In what language is “appeal” a synonym for “quickly”?

Owain Doull, Team Sky rider: “I was at the team camp in December and it was pretty much business as usual.” Probably not the best quote when asked how your team is dealing with accusations of doping, cover-ups, secret packet drug deliveries, missing laptops with medical records, and you know, very bad stuff.

Movement for Credibility in Cycling: “This is the reason why MPCC and its Board of Directors, without making any assumption towards the final decision, asks Team Sky to suspend [Chris Froome] on a voluntary basis.” First, the name of your group, guys. There is no credibility in cycling and never has been. Second, asking Team Sky to forego its due process protections for shitsngiggles? Third, asking Team Dope to voluntarily kill its cash cow? Goodness. Stuuuuuu-pid.

Tom Dumoulin, rival and 2017 Giro winner: “What can I say now about the Froome case? I cannot say anything because I don’t know the details. I only know that he’s positive … ” What can you say? You can say you think he’s most likely a dopey doper who dopes. For starters.

Dave Brailsford, director for Team Dope: “I have the utmost confidence that Chris followed the medical guidance in managing his asthma symptoms, staying within the permissible dose for Salbutamol.” Did he not notice that the positive test was for double the permissible dose? Total dummy talk.

Geraint Thomas, Team Dope rider: “It’s another thing against the team but I do trust that he wouldn’t have gone out of his way to cheat.” So he would cheat if it were really easy, but wouldn’t go out of his way to do it? Nice.

Patrick Lefevere, QuickStep team manager: “I’m sad. First of all, I’m sad.” Yes, it’s so sad when a doper dopes and gets caught. I’d argue that it’s not sad. It’s predictable and it’s part of the freak show. Sad? Sad is when some tenement burns down. Sad is Sandy Hook. This isn’t sad, it’s the entertainment business.

Gianni Bugno, ex-pro and convicted drug trafficker: “Froome is innocent until proven guilty and so it’s right he can race.” Yet another example of knuckleheads conflating criminal guilt with civil proceedings, in this case a private arbitration process.

Dick Pound, former WADA president: “If you’re over the threshold by 100 per cent, that needs some explanation.” No, it doesn’t. It needs a ban.

Chris Froome, confused bicycle racer: “I know what those limits are, and I’ve never gone over those limits.” Earth to Chris: Yes, you have. That’s what this is all about. You have gone over limits by 100 percent. Dummy talk …

Wout Poels, Team Dope rider: “Every once in a while we get a small update and behind the scenes, Chris and his lawyers are working hard to solve the problem.” I like the way it’s posed as a problem to be solved, like a quadratic equation. No suggestion that they are feverishly working to find way to get a cheater off the hook.

Mathieu van der Poel, ‘Cross rider: “A suspension, that’s what I think. For me it’s a positive test. If the limit is 1,000 and he’s up to 2,000, then there’s not much discussion needed. That’s a positive test.” Okay, someone finally said something that made sense.

Katie Compton, ‘Cross rider: “It doesn’t make sense that you could have that much in your system and still be able to pedal that hard. I don’t know. I feel like something else is going on.” I wonder what that could possibly be? Maybe time to get O.J. on the case?

Brent Copeland, Bahrain-Merida team manager: “You’re riding through different climatic conditions all the time and unfortunately they do suffer from asthma and a lot of riders do use this substance to help them out.” Yes, they do use it to help them out, and Chris helped himself too much. Ergo, busted.

Lance Armstrong, Face of Pro Cycling: “Cycling is the sporting world’s doormat. I have to say that I take a lot of blame for that.” Still one of the dumbest people to open his mouth in front of a microphone, and still everyone’s go-to quote machine for all things cycling. Name another sport whose banned villains are the most relevant voices in the game.

Greg Lemond, Tour winner: “If this is what he claims, then it’s simple, he broke the rules and should be punished accordingly.” Oops! Something intelligent sneaked into this post!

Christian Prudhomme, director of the Tour: “We want the situation to be cleared up, to get out of the darkness and ambiguity.” Darkness? Are we in a cave? Ambiguity? He tested double the limit. Sheesh. What Prudhomme means is the ambiguity of whether he’s going to have a winner in 2018 or a winner in 2018 who gets stripped in 2019.

Chris Froome, unhappy asthmatic: “This is quite a horrible situation if I’m honest. We’re working as hard as we can to get to the bottom of this.” Kind of like Prudhomme’s dark cave, this is very simple. You took too much and got caught. And “get to the bottom” implies some nefarious scheme that Inspector Lestrade and Holmes are working hard to solve. Nope.

Tom van Damme, UCI Road Commission President: “It is unfortunate that a problem in the gray zone is now being enlarged, unfortunately we have to follow the rules of WADA.” Unfortunate that you have due process? It would so much easier if you could just do what? Shoot him?

Romain Bardet, AG2R La Mondiale rider: “I don’t see how Froome can race as if nothing is going on.” He has four million reasons to keep racing, actually. Every year.

Brian Cookson, ousted UCI president: “I mistakenly thought that the matter must have been resolved.” In this case, “resolved” means that it was swept under the table. Cookson said this knowing that Froome had tested positive, he just didn’t know it was about to be found out. Wannnnnker.

Julie Harringon, British Cycling CEO: “The issue in this case is that the process was leaked.” No, Julie, the issue is that Froome was doping.

Mauro Vegni, director of the Giro: “Everything is in the hands of the UCI.” No, it isn’t. It’s in the hands of Froome’s legal team, the UCI, and ultimately the Court of Arbitration for Sport.



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Richie Porte almost wins Tour Down Under

January 23, 2018 Comments Off on Richie Porte almost wins Tour Down Under

Cycling superstar Richie Porte pulled off another devastating near-win at the 2018 Tour Down Under, where he wowed the hometown crowd with another stunning second place at one of the world’s premier stage races.

“Almost won that baby!” Porte said as he gleefully smacked his palm after the race. Porte executed an impressive victory on the queen stage, mastering the dreaded Willunga Hill climb, then watched as Daryl Impey secured the overall on the following day. “Can’t win ’em all,” Porte said with typical Australian good cheer as he congratulated the victor.

Cycling in the South Bay sat down with Richie after his fantastic second place finish at the TdU to talk about his impressive career and his plans for 2018.

CitSB: Pretty awesome second place today, here on your home Australian turf.

RP: Yeah, it feels pretty good, almost as good as when I got second behind Hernao at the Tour of the Basque Country in 2013. That was an amazing day.

CitSB: Brings back memories?

RP: Oh, yeah, mate. I’d just taken the fifth stage, a real beast, from Eibar to Beasain and was six seconds down on Hernao, my teammate.

CitSB: Then what happened?

RP: Oh, I crushed it on the last day and took second overall. It was incredible. An incredible feeling.

CitSB: You were so aggressive on Willunga two days ago, I think the pundits had you down for the overall.

RP (laughs): What do they know? Y’know, 2013 was a great year for me. Second overall at the Critérium International, second overall at the Dauphiné, and second at the Basque Country. Seems like only yesterday!

CitSB: There are a lot of people on the inside of the sport who have you picked as as once-in-a-generation talent.

RP: I don’t know about that, but I’ve always said that anything worth doing is worth almost winning. I’d say 2013 was my breakout year for nearly getting the overall, but I had that second placing in 2014 at the Vuelta a Andalucia, kind of confirmed the previous year, you know?

CitSB: Yes, it really did.

RP: And then in 2015 I was the runner-up at the Tour Down Under; my first time to achieve a near win at our biggest domestic race. The fans were incredible!

CitSB: Yes, I remember. The hometown crowd was thrilled to see you come so close to winning!

RP: Right? Then the following year, in 2016, well it was kind of like a dream, y’know? I almost won the Tour Down Under again, twice in a row! Then I came within a few seconds of first place in the Aussie National Time Trial Championships. It was a giddy year!

CitSB: Almost winning year in and year out is tough to do. And then the way you stormed to second in 2017 at the Critérium du Dauphiné, again.

RP: The toughest, really.

CitSB: Let’s talk about the Tour.

RP: ‘Ave a go, mate.

CitSB: You’ve yet to stand on the second place on the Tour podium yet.

RP: Not for want o’ trying, mate. Not for want o’ trying.

CitSB: Your fans had you pegged for second in 2017 after finishing fifth in 2016. What happened?

RP: I think it’s clear that I could have nearly won the Tour in 2015 if I hadn’t been working for Froomey. Then in 2016 when I was the team leader I think it was pretty clear that I could have almost won if I’d had more support from my teammates, they were doin’ a bit too much ass scratchin’ when they should have been punching the clock, y’know? And it was pretty much guaranteed that I’d nearly have been the winner last if I hadn’t crashed out. That course was a bit of a joke.

CitSB: It was?

RP: Definitely.

CitSB: Any predictions for 2018?

RP: I’m targeting the Giro; I think a next-to-the-top-step is very realistic given where my training is right now, then carry the form over to the Tour.

CitSB: And finally nail down that coveted placing that no one ever remembers?

RP (giant smile): That’s the plan, mate.



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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.


The truth about Chris Froome’s doping, Part 2

December 20, 2017 Comments Off on The truth about Chris Froome’s doping, Part 2

To recap: Salbutamol, when injected or taken orally, allows you to retain muscle and lose weight. It is banned by WADA for this reason, but allowed up to certain levels when taken through an inhaler for asthmatics, because inhaled Salbutamol does not enhance performance.

Chris Froome’s urine after Stage 18 in the Vuelta had double the allowed amount of Salbutamol, 2,000 ng/mL. This indicates cheating, i.e. oral or injected use for doping, not for use as an inhalant for asthma.

What is Froome’s defense? Well, he’s already telegraphed it pretty clearly, and it’s the only move he really has if he’s to avoid a doping ban. The idea is that it was his doctor’s fault. According to Team Sky, Froome upped his dose of asthma medication during the Vuelta on the advice of one of the team’s medical staff. Froome explained that his symptoms worsened during the Vuelta, and that he sought medical advice from the team doctor in order to increase his Salbutamol dosage. So the defense is, “The doctor doped me.”

Team Sky is already building on this defense, claiming that Froome also used Salbutamol after the stage to reduce his coughing so that he could conduct television interviews. Obviously, the implication is that even if he went over the limit, it wasn’t for a performance advantage but rather simply so that he could talk to the press. This is a move I’ll discuss more below, prepping the inquisitors for the idea that even if he doped, it wasn’t intentional performance-enhancement. The difference between negligent and intentional doping is irrelevant for purposes of guilt, but huge for purposes of determining the length of the sanction.

Strangely enough, this developing defense contradicts Froome’s initial statement to the press when his positive test was sniffed out by the media and he said “You have to remember I’ve been racing with asthma for 10 years now. I know what those limits are. I’ve never gone over those limits.” So on one hand he has never gone over the limits, and on the other hand he went over the limits, but it wasn’t his fault.

Before dealing with the difficulties of proving his case, let’s review WADA’s rules for riders who exceed the 1000 ng/mL dosage. The rule is that in order to not be considered doping, a/k/a an Adverse Analytical Finding, the athlete has to prove through a controlled pharmacokinetic study that the abnormal result was the consequence of the use of the therapeutic dose (by inhalation) up to the maximum allowable dose. In other words, the rider has to show that he inhaled the allowable dose but that something in his physiology caused the false positive. No jokes about Floyd Landis’s book, “Positively False,” please.

What exactly is a pharmacokinetic study? It’s pretty simple, actually. The athlete inhales the amount that he claims he inhaled, and then, in laboratory conditions with full monitoring, his urine gets re-tested. If his urine shows that he took more of the drug than he actually did, the rider is off the hook because he’s proved that he followed all the rules but that something about his body produced a false positive. But ominously, if his urine reflects the actual amount inhaled, then he is presumed to have taken the amount shown in the positive test on race day, which in Froome’s case was twice the allowed limit. Talk about going all in.

In a nutshell, here’s why Chris Froome can most likely look forward to a doping ban:

  1. He will fail the pharmacokinetic test, which will show that there is nothing weird or freakish about his physiology that causes Salbutamol to register abnormally. He probably knows this, because he’s been taking Salbutamol for years and this has never happened before. Why would he suddenly be returning false positives in massive amounts for a drug he admits to taking all the time?
  2. “The doctor doped me” is not a valid excuse for having excessive levels of Salbutamol in your urine. The relevant rule is Article 15 (1.1) of the UCI and WADA’s Anti-Doping Regulations, which reads in part: “It is each Rider’s personal duty to ensure that no Prohibited Substance enters his body. Riders are responsible for any Prohibited Substance or its Metabolites or Markers found to be present in their bodily Specimens. Accordingly, it is not necessary that intent, fault, negligence or knowing Use on the Rider’s part be demonstrated in order to establish an anti-doping violation under Article 15.1.” Also, no doctor has stepped forward to take responsibility for doping up Chris. If this were a horrible case of mistaken dosage, the first person to come forward would have been the doctor, and if he hesitated, Froome would have named him immediately. There can’t have been more than one or two people at Team Sky on Stage 18 with authority to administer drugs to the team’s star rider and four-time winner of the TdF. Why hasn’t the doctor come forward? Because everyone knows he didn’t dope anyone, Froome and Team Sky most of all.
  3. The nutty defense that the positive test resulted from a post-race inhalation to talk to the press, if true, makes it certain that he will be sanctioned because taking excessive amounts of the drug is precisely what the rules forbid. Whether you take them before, during, or after the race is irrelevant if the amount exceeds the allowed limit. Moreover, no amount of puffing would result in such high levels; a standard puff is 100 mcg, and various estimates rate a 2,000 ng/mL reading to require 19+ inhalations.

The record for successful defenses of Salbutamol positives isn’t going to be a source of much encouragement for Chris Froome. Most recently, Diego Ulissi of Lampre-Merida was banned for nine months after testing positive for 1,900 ng/mL of Salbutamol after the 11th Stage of the Giro in 2014. Like Froome, he tested positive for this massive amount after exceptional performances, in this case winning stages 5 and 8. Like Froome, he claimed that there was no way he could have gotten such a high reading from mere inhalations. I would argue that he was right; he returned the high levels due to oral or injected use of the drug.

Worryingly for Froome, Ulissi went through the WADA protocol for a pharmacokinetic study in Switzerland only to find out that the readings were accurate, that he didn’t have freaky physiology, and that the elevated levels were sanctionable. Also like Froome, Ulissi was a long-time user/abuser of Salbutamol, and was in fact using it under a TUE. One silver lining for Froome in the Ulissi case is that Ulissi was only banned for nine months instead of two years, as the disciplinary committee bought the argument championed by his team that his violation was negligent, not intentional. This fits perfectly with the story being developed by Team Sky and Froome, that even if he did dope, it was a) because of someone else and/or b) done negligently to allow him to conduct interviews. What’s also fun to note is that Ulissi’s apologists took some of the same ridiculous tacts that Team Sky is now attempting, and of course it was written up in 2014 … here.

Another 2014 Salbutamol doping case involves Moldovan rider Alexandr Pliuschin, who tested positive at a stage race in Dubai where he won two stages. Don’t worry if you couldn’t find Moldova on a map after being spotted the Ukraine and Romania. Like Froome and Ulissi, the use of Salbutamol doping positives correlates with great results during the race in which they are positive. Distinct from Froome and Ulissi, Pliuschin’s team completely abandoned him when the tests came out, pointing out that it happened when he was with another team. This underscores the difference in treatment between World Tour stage and grand tour winners, and low-level pros trying to make it in the big time. Also distinct from Froome, and not in a good way, is Pliuschin’s reading: He tested for 1,600 ng/mL, far less than Froome or Ulissi, and received a nine-month ban for his efforts, marking the end of his career.

Most worrying of all for Chris Froome, the cycling world has plenty of examples of riders busted for Salbutamol who were sanctioned, as well as those who got the wink-wink-nod-nod. Given the drug’s proven effective used in combination with steroids, its users read like a who’s who of cycling greats. Alex Zülle  tested positive in 1993 as did Bo Hamburger; no sanction was imposed.  Laurent Madouas tested positive in 1994, was disqualified and suspended for a month. Two-time Paris-Roubaix winner Franco Ballerini tested positive and wasn’t sanctioned even though the result came in the ’94 edition of Roubaix where he placed third. Hour record holder Tony Rominger also tested positive in the same year and was excused for therapeutic use; his test result came after the prologue of the Tour.

The same thing happened to five-time Tour winner Miguel Indurain, popped in 1994 at the Tour de L’Oise for Salbutamol that was in a nasal inhaler. The drug was banned by the IOC and UCI at the time, except for athletes with asthma. In France, where he tested positive, it was banned outright, but he was still exonerated, with the IOC/UCI accepting his excuse that his use was legitimate. The bigger the star, apparently, the lighter the touch.

Matt White crossed the line in 1998 and was suspended for two months. Igor Gonzalez de Galdeano tested positive in 2002 and skated under the therapeutic use exception. Eric Berthou, busted in 2002, got off with a warning and a disqualification. Mederic Clain was busted and exempted in 2006, as was Tour runner-up Óscar Pereiro, later known as Tour Winner After Floyd Was Stripped. Continuing in a long line of obfuscation and outright lies about Salbutamol and its effects, UCI deposed president and Lance Armstrong flunky Pat McQuaid defended Pereiro with this bold-faced lie: “He was not positive. He uses Ventolin to treat asthma, as many people do. It is not a doping product or anything like that.” To suggest that Salbutamol isn’t a doping product is to ignore science in general and the WADA code of banned substances in particular.

David Garbelli was warned and DQ’d, also in 2006, as was Christoph Girschweller in 2007. Then a big fish wound up in the net, when Alessandro Petacchi, one of the greatest sprinters of all time, was nailed in 2007, excused by his federation, but later sanctioned by the UCI. His level of Salubotamol was 1,320 ng/mL, and came in an edition of the Giro where he had won five stages. This is a bad precedent for Froome, who has tested positive with far bigger numbers. What was most interesting about the Petacchi case is that the Barcelona lab which retested his sample concluded that the Salbutamol had not been inhaled. This comports exactly with my contention, that inhaling the drug is a cover for oral or injected use to lose weight and retain muscle mass. Nonetheless, CAS ignored the Barcelona lab’s finding, and although it sanctioned Petacchi, it bought his utterly unfounded claim that the Salbutamol had been inhaled. I doubt that this kind of chicanery would pass scrutiny today, and Froome should be worried. A kind of silverish-lining for Froome is the fact that although CAS did in fact sanction Petacchi, and they accepted the argument that Froome now advances, i.e. his levels were caused by a “post race” inhalation, he was therefore banned for a year rather than two. Yet unlike Petacchi, who was at the end of his spectacular career (and racking up five stage wins in the Giro, uh, okay), a one-year doping ban for Froome would be catastrophic for him and for Team Sky.

Leonardo Piepoli  got by after testing positive in 2007 in the same Giro as Petacchi, with therapeutic use, whereas Gerg Soeperberg was disqualified and warned in the same year. Matteo Trentin got a two-month sanction in 2007, as did Mariusz Olesek. Eric Berthou tested positive but was exempted in 2008. If none of these names mean anything to you, the name of Salbutamol should: It is an incredibly effective and popular doping agent and has been recognized as such since at least 1992, and probably before.

Whatever you want to say about Salbutamol, Froome has got to be considering the reality that if he can’t reproduce a massive 2,000 ng/mL test result with a few measly puffs from an inhaler, he’s looking at a minimum suspension of nine months, the loss of his Vuelta title, and the potential destruction of Team Sky, a cycling team already stinking of dope to high heaven. Worst case scenario is two years sitting on the bench, wondering where it all went wrong.




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