Triple Tour de France champion Chris Froome has fuelled the debate over Sir Bradley Wiggins’ use of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE), saying his rival may have been operating in a grey area of anti-doping rules.
Wiggins has faced questions after it emerged that he was prescribed a powerful drug, which would have been forbidden without a doctor issuing a TUE, to treat allergies shortly before three major races, including his historic triumph at the 2012 Tour de France.
He and Team Sky did not break any rules and have both insisted that they did not seek to exploit a loophole on TUEs, whose role in elite sport has become the subject of increasing debate.
Team Sky rider Froome, who rode alongside Wiggins as he became the first Briton to win the Tour in 2012 and has since won the race three times himself, said doubts remained about Wiggins’ prescriptions and TUE use broadly.
“Yes I was surprised, it was the first that I had heard of them. Without knowing the exact details of his medical condition, it’s impossible to say if he was operating in a grey area,” he told Cycling News.
“I had seen Bradley Wiggins using his inhalers so I knew he had asthma, but I wasn’t aware of his allergies. It’s a great shame for the sport that we’re once again debating the validity of a Tour de France victory, and it has been a very challenging time for those involved.”
Froome: My TUEs were legitimate
Froome also defended his own use of a TUE shortly before the 2014 Tour of Romandie, which he won, saying that it was for an asthma attack and that any performance-enhancing quality was “negligible”.
“I had serious trouble breathing, which was visible to everyone. The team applied for an emergency TUE for a short course of prednisolone,” he said.
“This is the standard treatment for post-infection inflammation in asthmatics that cannot be controlled by standard inhalers.
“With regards to Wiggins’ TUE’s, questions remain over his symptoms, the choice of treatment and the related performance benefits from that treatment.”
Tougher climbs in 2017 Tour de France route
Britain’s most decorated Olympian Wiggins, 36, said his use of TUEs for anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone was to mitigate allergies and breathing problems and put him “back on a level playing field”.
Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford said last month that Wiggins’ use of medication before the 2011 and 2012 Tours and the 2013 Giro d’Italia were for “a medical need” and “not to enhance performance”.
Froome, meanwhile, faces a Tour defence riddled with tougher climbs designed to “separate the men from the boys”, race organisers said as they revealed the 2017 route on Tuesday.