Anti-doping authorities labelled 'lame' and 'toothless' after Chris Froome is cleared to ride in Tour de France
The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) was accused of being "lame" and "toothless" yesterday after Chris Froome apparently exposed its salbutamol test as unreliable, opening the door to potential action from athletes found guilty of the offence in the past.
After nine months of investigation, and with just days to go until the start of this year's Tour de France, Froome was cleared of any wrongdoing when the world governing body the UCI dropped its disciplinary case against the British rider on advice from Wada.
Froome (33) had vehemently denied breaking any rules after he triggered an Adverse Analytical Finding (AAF) for the asthma drug salbutamol at last year's Vuelta a Espana.
He is now cleared to compete in this year's Tour, which begins in the Vendee region on Saturday.
Tour organisers ASO had tried to block Froome from competing, with a hearing due today. But they conceded yesterday that their attempts to do so were "obsolete".
It was an embarrassing climbdown for the French company, which had argued that Froome's presence in France might be bad for the "image" of the Tour with his case dragging on.
Its former ambassador Bernard Hinault had been particularly strident in his condemnation of Froome, who has won the Tour four times.
But it is not half as embarrassing as Wada's climbdown, the implications of which could be far more serious.
Italians Diego Ulissi and Alessandro Petacchi were both banned on the strength of having less salbutamol in their system than Froome had last September.
They did not have access to the funding or legal representation available to Froome. They may try to seek damages now that the reliability of the test has been undermined, although Ulissi's new team, UAE Team Emirates, indicated that their rider simply wished to move on with his career.
Anti-doping experts and commentators queued up to criticise Wada, however, after the UCI's statement dropped yesterday morning, revealing that it had decided to close the case on advice from Wada.
"On 28 June 2018 Wada informed the UCI that it would accept, based on the specific facts of the case, that Mr Froome's sample results do not constitute an AAF," read the UCI statement. "In light of Wada's unparalleled access to information and authorship of the salbutamol regime, the UCI has decided, based on Wada's position, to close the proceedings against Mr Froome."
Wada released a statement shortly afterwards giving a brief appraisal of what it described as a "complex case" and adding it would not try to appeal the UCI's decision.
Wada did not go into great detail on how Froome had managed to demonstrate his innocence, beyond saying that his sample result was "not inconsistent with an ingestion of salbutamol within the permitted maximum inhaled dose".
Former rider Michael Rasmussen, who was convicted of doping during his career, described Wada as "lame" and "toothless". (© The Daily Telegraph, London)