Chris Froome’s salbutamol defence boosted by scientific study

Chris Froome‘s tilt at the Giro d’Italia didn’t get off to the best start when he crashed during a recon of the opening time trial, but the battle to prove his innocence in his salbutamol case may have received a boost following the publication of a new scientific study.

A research paper published last week in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, and highlighted in an article on The Times website on Monday, has called the efficacy of the testing procedures for salbutamol into question.

The paper, titled the ‘Futility of current urine salbutamol doping control’, concluded that it was not feasible to determine a dosage level based on the results of a single ‘untimed’ urine sample.


Froome returned a salbutamol level of 2,000ng/ml in an anti-doping urine test conducted during the final week of last year’s Vuelta a España. The reading was twice the permitted level set out by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA). Froome and his legal team are attempting to prove that, despite the reading, he did not exceed the permitted dosage. If he is found to be guilty, he could face a lengthy suspension and may have results struck from his palmarès – though which ones remains unclear. Froome has always maintained his innocence and has defended his decision to continue racing sub-judice.

The new study used simulations to predict the concentration of salbutamol in urine, using a model of inhaled and orally administered salbutamol, with an input of 800mcg – WADA’s maximum allowed dosage. Most of the parameters used came from literature on adult humans but the study also used parameters on absorption and distribution from literature on dogs.

According to the report, as many as 15.4 per cent of the simulations resulted in the levels of salbutamol in the urine exceeding the 1,000ng/ml limit set out by WADA. It states that “the current threshold inadvertently leads to incorrect assumptions of violation, whereas many violations will go unnoticed” and says that the testing should be reconsidered.

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