Walsh says Froome used inhaler to avoid coughing on TV after Vuelta stage 18

Posted on: December 17th, 2017

David Walsh Chris Froome inhaler

David Walsh has said after stage 18 of the Vuelta Chris Froome took several puffs on his inhaler to avoid coughing during interviews. Then he did the dope test that threw up an adverse finding (Photo: Pete Goding)


Chris Froome used inhaler to avoid coughing during interviews, says David Walsh


Irish journalist David Walsh has said that on the day Chris Froome recorded his adverse salbutamol result he used his inhaler to avoid coughing during post-stage interviews.

He said Froome did his dope test not long after the interview; doing both within 50 minutes of the stage end.

Writing in The Sunday Times today, Walsh also reminds readers how cold and wet it was the day before. He said Froome fell ill during that period of the race, even though he told journalists he wasn’t sick.

And Walsh also said Froome’s insistence he would be crazy to cheat when he knew he would be tested every day was a strong point in his favour now.

“That point (makes) sense and it is a challenge for those who presume he is guilty,” he wrote in his comment column on the back page of the newspaper.

Inside the sports supplement Walsh has a second piece about Froome.

However, he does not quote him directly, aside from his greeting, despite saying that he spoke to him by phone in the days after the test results broke; with one of the conversations lasting for an hour.

Walsh reminds readers of the stages during the last week of the Vuelta, leading up to stage 18 when the adverse test result was recorded.

He says stage 16 was a 40.2km TT. Froome won, beating Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) by 29 seconds. Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain Merida), who was 3rd on the day, some 57 seconds off Froome.

Chris Froome has already said his asthma was worsening through the race.

Walsh says the day after the TT, the 180.5km stage to Los Machucos Monumento Vaca Pasiega, was cold and wet.

He points out Froome faded on the final climb and lost his place in the main favourites group. He would finish 14th, some 42 seconds down on Nibali.

Having increased his lead to almost two minutes over Nibali in the previous day’s TT, Froome had seen his advantage cut and the race was far from over, said Walsh.

The journalist adds that while the effort of the TT the previous day had taken a lot out of Froome, his poor ride on stage 17 was more than just that.

And Walsh claims that he knew while Froome was telling journalists he was not ill, he was indeed getting sick.

“He had suffered in the unseasonal cold on the Machuros stage; the pattern that he knew so well, chest infection brought on by his asthma followed by sustained bouts of coughing,” Walsh writes.

“Sensing he was unwell, journalists asked if he was OK and he insisted he was fine, absolutely fine. The reality is that he was not.”

Walsh then says Froome “would have” thought of applying for a TUE that evening to take medication to help him. But he had considered that at the 2015 Tour and decided against it.

David Walsh then outlines what Froome did the following day; stage 18 when the adverse dope test result occurred.

Having struggled on stage 17 to the extent he “would have” considered a TUE, Froome was going much better the next day.

Rather than losing 42 seconds to Nibali, he turned the tables on the Italian. He managed to gain time on him; on the 169km staged to Santo Toribio de Liébana.

Walsh said that since being seen using an inhaler during a stage of the 2014 Criterium du Dauphine and been criticised for it, Froome did not use it during racing anymore.

It meant the number of puffs of his inhaler that he could legally take were no longer always spread evenly across a day.

After stage 18, when he was “stronger” compared to the previous day, he took several puffs of his inhaler, says Walsh.

“That evening at the finish (of stage 18), wanting to show he was healthy, he took two or three puffs from his inhaler hoping he would cough less or not at all through the post-race interview,” Walsh claims.

He then adds that 50 minutes after crossing the finish line he had his interview and dope test done.

Walsh says that when doing his test Froome “recorded his use of salbutamol, which is legal provided the amount does not exceed the 1000ng/ml threshold”.

Walsh adds of salbutamol: “It needs to be said that Salbutamol is primarily a performance-enabling drug that allows asthmatics to keep their airways open.”

He notes while anti doping authorities believe it can be performance-enhancing, “multiple studies suggest there is little or no benefit to non-asthmatics”.

Walsh adds that he had spoken to medical experts between his telephone conversations with Froome last Wednesday and Friday.

And the medics had really struggled to suggest a way Froome’s sample could be twice the legal salbutamol limit if he had not broken the rules.

But as he got off the phone to Froome after the second call last week, he said he had to tell Froome he did not trust him in the way he used to.

“I wished him luck in trying to establish his innocence, and I meant that,” he wrote.