The four-time Tour de France winner is still fighting to prove his innocence after returning an adverse analytical finding for the asthma drug salbutamol during last year’s La Vuelta — a race he won in a historic Tour-Vuelta double.
Several rivals, as well as UCI president David Lappartient, have called for Froome to be suspended by Team Sky until the case is resolved.
The 32-year-old finished safely in the main bunch on the opening stage of the Ruta del Sol between Mijas and Granada yesterday, a stage won by France’s Thomas Boudat (Direct Energie) in a sprint finish.
“It was good to be back racing,” Froome told Sky Sports News. “What was really touching was how riders from other teams came over to offer their support.”
Beforehand, Froome had told Sky Sports: “I know I’ve done nothing wrong and there’s a process in place for me to be able to demonstrate that, and that’s obviously what I intend to do. It is not going to go any faster if I was sitting at home. We’re going as fast as we can on it now and hopefully we’ll get a result as soon as possible.”
Froome also said, according to The Times: “Obviously it was meant to be a confidential process. It has been made public now but a lot of other athletes and riders have been through this process. I’m not asking for the benefit of the doubt here. I’m just asking for a fair process.”
Team Sky general manager Dave Brailsford says Froome “stuck within the rules” regarding the use of his inhaler.
“Let’s keep a bit of perspective here. What we’re talking about is an inhaler,” Brailsford told Sky Sports News. “It’s a puffer. How many times is he allowed to use his puffer? You’re allowed to use it 16 times in 24 hours and of course the question here is, ‘Did he use it more than that?’
“The rules aren’t about the urine, or the levels in the urine, the rules are about how many times you take your puffer.
“It has been proven that even if you take your puffer less than the amounts which you’re entitled to, you can excrete more than the threshold in your urine. It has been proven time and time again, it can happen.
“If that does happen, the rules are around the number of times of use and I can guarantee you he hasn’t gone over the use.
“We do need to get to the bottom of it, we do need to understand it, but it is not this great calamity of a doping story which people are trying to make out. It is a pretty straightforward scenario.
“Going forward I’m sure we’ll be able to demonstrate to everybody that he absolutely stuck within the rules.”