Three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome has called for tighter rules on medical exemptions in cycling after British anti-doping officials launched an investigation into former Sky teammate Bradley Wiggins.
Wiggins and Team Sky are the subject of an inquiry into the contents of a medical package delivered to the team doctor before the 2011 Tour de France, prompting Froome to question the system of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs).
Having previously said the process was “open to abuse”, Froome went further in Japan, demanding that the World Anti-Doping Agency hire independent doctors to examine cyclists.
“I’d certainly like to see the whole process reviewed,” the Briton said on the eve of the Tour de France’s Saitama Criterium race yesterday, where he faces a strong field including two-time world champion Peter Sagan.
“I think now is certainly a good time. A suggestion I’ve made is to make it a more independent process,” Froome added. “It would be good to see some experts employed by WADA to evaluate riders for themselves – and maybe even have a list of medications for certain conditions which would be allowed under the TUE system that would be more regulated.”
Wiggins has denied there was anything nefarious about three injections of the drug triamcinolone to treat pollen allergies before the 2011 and 2012 Tours, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia, arguing it “levelled the playing field”.
Team Sky likewise insisted their conscience was clear, pointing out that the TUEs were cleared by WADA and cycling’s governing UCI.
Sky boss Dave Brailsford has since offered to ask his riders if they would be willing to let their medical information be made public, but WADA rejected the idea of making TUEs transparent.
“Of course I understand that,” said Froome, who with Wiggins was a member of the British cycling squad at the Rio Olympics in August. “It’s medical confidentiality that they want to protect and obviously that’s their call on it.”
Froome himself, was revealed by the Fancy Bears hackers to have been issued with two TUE certificates for prednisolone, which is used to treat a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
Froome and Wiggins have clashed in the past, including famously on the 2012 Tour de France, won by Wiggins. After Froome defied team orders to attack his teammate on a mountain stage, Wiggins furiously claimed he had been “stabbed in the back.”
In what viewed as a thinly veiled swipe at Wiggins, Froome recently tweeted that he was not prepared to “win at all costs” and added: “there are some athletes who not only abide by the rules that are in place, but also those of fair play”.
British cycling chiefs asked to explain medical exemptions
British Cycling bosses, meanwhile, have been called to a parliamentary hearing to explain the growing trend of therapeutic use exemptions in the sport.
Damian Collins, chairman of the culture, media and sport select committee, said yesterday that the hearing will focus on grounds for granting the exemptions (TUEs) amid concerns about British star Bradley Wiggins’s controversial
use of a powerful corticosteroid before three key races.
“As part of the inquiry into doping, the select committee wants to look at the ethics of the use of TUEs and the way this is policed by British Cycling,” Collins said. “We can ask British Cycling about any incidents in the past where we believe it is important how the governing body oversees their sport.”
Data stolen by computer hackers after the Rio Games revealed former
Olympic gold medallist Wiggins had received TUEs for triamcinolone – a substance which has a history of abuse in cycling and is otherwise banned – on the eve of the Tour de France in 2011 and the race in 2012, which he won, as well as the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
Wiggins and Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford, the British Cycling performance director until April 2014, have strenuously denied any wrongdoing, insisting each time the TUEs were medically
necessary to deal with a pollen allergy that aggravates the cyclist’s long-standing asthma condition.
The TUEs also had the approval of the UCI, cycling’s world governing body, and there is no suggestion that Wiggins, who left Team Sky in April 2015, or the team have broken any rules.
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