British cycling legend Sir Bradley Wiggins has described Chris Froome’s salbutamol case as a “mess” and says the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA) need more funds if they are to combat doping in cycling.
UCI, cycling’s world governing body, dropped its nine-month investigation into Froome’s positive test for abnormally high levels of salbutamol at last year’s Vuelta Espana.
Froome always insisted that he was innocent of any wrongdoing and WADA has now conceded there is enough variability in the salbutamol excretion of individual athletes that the reigning Tour de France champion has no case to answer.
The UCI’s decision, despite making clear it was acting on advice from WADA, has led to huge controversy, with some feeling that Froome has escaped justice. Wiggins disagrees and feels the abuse Froome is receiving from spectators is unfair and unjust.
“We have to respect that he’s allowed to race, and within a safe environment. He’s getting all kinds of abuse at the moment and no athlete should have to ride under that and have their safety [placed in doubt] at the sport’s biggest event,” he said on his podcast for Eurosport.
Wiggins has himself been the subject of huge controversy after it emerged that he took therapeutic use exemptions for the corticosteroid kenacort before some of the biggest races of his career.
His medical records were hacked by Fancy Bears activists, and he has expressed some sympathy with Froome, saying the Sky rider’s salbutamol case should have remained confidential.
“Without the leak we wouldn’t even know about it, but that’s the nature of sport now. Had it not been Chris Froome there wouldn’t have been a leak,” he explained.
“I think someone saw an opportunity. One of the big organisations, one of the big parties in this case, maybe did it to get one over of someone else, and it’s overshadowed the sport all year. But he’s in the race now and he’s in a chance to win his fifth Tour de France.
“Earlier in the year I thought it might affect him but he’s managed to remain dignified and rise above it, with an historic Giro and for me is still a favourite to win the Tour de France. He’s proved in the past that he can deal with whatever’s thrown at him.”
Wiggins concluded by wondering whether WADA should have closed down the controversy earlier.
“What I think now is more the issue is how UCI and WADA are communicating as we heard nothing for eight or nine months and then all of a sudden we heard it within a day and he could race the next day,” he said.
“Could this decision have been made earlier? It’s just a mess. Did they already know the test was flawed? Apparently they may have already known that months ago and this could have happened with anyone.
“Something needs reviewing massively. I don’t think WADA have a massive amount of money, they need more investment. They were set up 20 years ago and their rules were probably written then, so perhaps they need to be re-written.
“But to really combat doping in sport and the more secret ways people are finding to dope in sport they need more money and funding.”