Chris Froome has called for urgent reform of the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) system in professional cycling, insisting that it is "open to abuse" in its current form. The three-time Tour de France winner's views come in the aftermath of a series of private medical data leaks from cyber hackers Fancy Bears, which have led to much scrutiny of Team Sky and specifically beloved Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins in recent days.
"I take my position in the sport very seriously and I know that I have to not only abide by the rules, but also go above and beyond that to set a good example both morally and ethically," Froome said in a statement released via Twitter.
"It is clear that the TUE system is open to abuse and I believe that this is something that the UCI and WADA needs to urgently address. At the same time there are athletes who not only abide by the rules that are in place, but also those of fair play.
"I have never had a "win at all costs" approach in this regard. I am not looking to push the boundaries of the rules. I believe that this is something the athletes need to take responsibility for themselves, until more stringent protocols can be put in place."
The TUE process exists for athletes to obtain permission to use prohibited substances in order to treat "legitimate medical conditions". Asthma sufferer Wiggins is said to have used anti-inflammatory corticosteroid triamcinolone before his solitary Tour de France win in 2012 as well as at the same event in 2011 and the 2013 Giro d'Italia.
Those TUEs were approved by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), with Wiggins, who, along with Team Sky, is not suspected or accused of any wrongdoing or anti-doping offence, insisting that he was not trying to gain an unfair advantage but had rather stringently followed rules and "put himself back on a level playing field" by treating long-standing respiratory issues and allergies.
Froome was named along with Wiggins in the second wave of Fancy Bear revelations that involved files being stolen from the World Anti-Doping Agency. However, he claimed to have "no issue" with the leak and pointed to the fact that he had openly discussed his TUEs with the media and that, in nine years as a professional cyclist, he had twice required exemptions to treat "exacerbated asthma" in 2013 and 2014. Again, there was no suggestion that he had done anything wrong by being granted permission to use prednisolone during the Tour of Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine.
Team Sky general manager Sir Dave Brailsford broke his silence on the TUE controversy across multiple platforms yesterday. In one interview with the BBC, he said: "It was not being used to enhance performance. I have known Bradley a long time and he is an asthma sufferer and he has struggled with allergies for as long as I have known him.
"I know that at the time there was a recommendation to see a specialist, he went to see a specialist and was then given permission by the authorities. I trust and believe in the integrity of that process."
What are TUEs?
Under Wada rules, athletes are legally allowed to take banned substances for legitimate medical reasons. However, the drug can only be used to treat an acute or chronic problem and there cannot be any reasonable therapeutic alternative.
Wiggins was given six TUEs during the course of his career, including three injections of triamcinolone. The injections were administered before the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France races, and the 2013 Giro d'Italia, to combat Wiggins' hay-fever. He was also granted TUEs for the drugs salbutamol, formoterol and budesonide - all of which are banned - to treat asthma in 2008.