First, there was a small furor over Sky’s Chris Froome use of an inhaler during the Dauphiné. An initial news report suggested that the UCI had fast-tracked the approval of corticosteroid prednisolone.
Now it appears that WADA has also investigated Froome’s visits to a Kenyan witch doctor who prescribed traditional herbal remedies that may fall within the category of banned substances.
“We researched the matter just as a safeguard,” said WADA’s Philippe Muti. “I must repeat that Mr. Froome is under no suspicion whatsoever. We are simply making sure that everything is correct.”
Froome has returned to his native Kenya for the last several years in the off-season. While a firm believer in Sky’s sports science approach, he is also open to more alternative health care approaches.
According to WADA documents, Froome has been treated by Kibiwott Njenga, a witch doctor who lives in a small village outside Mombasa. They sent a team to interview Njenga to determine if the herbal medications should be a concern.
Reached for comment, Njenga was surprised by all the attention from WADA and the UCI. “I am sitting outside my hut tending the fire when these strange men come,” said Njenga. “They tell me they are from a place called Switzerland. I do not know this place.”
After several hours of interviewing, the WADA officials were satisfied that Froome’s witch doctor wasn’t a African bush version of Doctor Eufemiano Fuentes, the man behind the infamous Operacion Puerto doping scheme.
“From everything we determined, Kibiwott is above board and very professional,” said WADA investigator Neils Bingen. “He’s hard to figure out because there are no medical certificates, he doesn’t practice at a clinic — but he was very open with us.”
The witch doctor provided a description of Froome’s treatments which included washing him down with a live, wet chicken and forcing a goat to inhale Froome’s negative recollections of the 2012 Tour de France, which he recounted by a smoking campfire. The witch doctor also gave Froome a small sack filled with sticks and herbs to ward off evil spirits.
“It was obvious that the use of the wet chicken and a goat to inhale negative spirits was not a violation of anti-doping laws,” said Bingen. “The codes are strict but also quite detailed. We collected a sample of the sticks and herbs and we’ll test that back at the lab but I don’t anticipate any problems.”
Sky CEO David Brailsford refused comment on the witch doctor however Sky’s medical officer Allan Wiggles was supportive of Froome’s witch doctor visits. “This is a relationship that Chris has had with Kibiwott for some time and the results have proved beneficial,” said Wiggles, “While our approach at Sky is driven by sports science, we’re not against alternative methodologies.”
In the spirit of greater transparency, Sky has apparently invited the witch doctor to join the team for a few days during the Tour de France. “He’s excited — he’s never seen a bike race and never been outside Kenya,” said Wiggles. “He wanted to bring one of the goats but we had to say no on that one.”
Froome’s fiancee Michelle Cound will be escorting Mr. Njenga during the stages in the Pyrenees mountains.