LONDON — With investigations escalating into a mystery medical package dispatched to a race six years ago to treat Bradley Wiggins, the British cycling great’s anger boiled over on Thursday.
Not over the revelation that Team Sky didn’t retain adequate records of his medication.
Nor by the discovery that British Cycling didn’t track the movement of medical supplies.
What incensed Wiggins was the presence of reporters outside his home seeking answers about a package being investigated by the country’s anti-doping agency and a parliamentary committee.
After walking down the driveway and opening a gate, Wiggins confronted a BBC television crew and snapped: “This is my house. It’s a private road. I will call the police.”
Associates pushed the camera away as a reporter asked Britain’s most decorated Olympian and first Tour de France winner if he would “shed some light” on the “mystery package.”
What isn’t disputed is that a package was couriered in 2011 to France with a product for Wiggins as he completed the Criterium du Dauphine.
It’s the ambiguity over the contents and the revelation about the absence of paperwork that, according to sports officials and legislators, is damaging the credibility of a team that trumpeted how it set new standards in cycling for winning cleanly through “marginal games.”
Everything was supposedly monitored, logged, and refined by the Team Sky experts – from riding routines to food and bedding. Just not medicines administered to its star rider a year before he won the 2012 Tour de France.
Team Sky maintains that it was a legal decongestant, Fluimucil, a brand name for a product containing acetylcysteine used for clearing mucus. U.K. Anti-Doping chief executive Nicole Sapstead, though, used a parliamentary committee hearing on Wednesday to reveal that the agency is investigating whether the product was in fact a banned corticosteroid called triamcinolone.
For Wiggins, triamcinolone would be allowed in competition only if a therapeutic use exemption was obtained, as he did three times from 2011 to 2013 – just not for this race. If Wiggins was found to have used triamcinolone at the Criterium du Dauphine without a TUE he could have been banned and not been eligible to race and win the Tour de France the following year.
Team doctor Richard Freeman should have logged Wiggins’ use of an unlicensed product – if it was used – to abide by British medical guidelines. Freeman was due to give evidence to the parliamentary committee on Wednesday but withdrew citing illness. UKAD said Freeman maintained records only on a laptop and didn’t upload the records to share with colleagues as required. Freeman also told investigators that his laptop was stolen in Greece in 2014.
At the time the package was flown to the Criterium du Dauphine – carried by an official who said he didn’t ask what it contained – British Cycling was led by the man now in charge of the sport internationally. UCI President Brian Cookson is not available for interview, the organization said, and he did not respond to a tweet asking why British Cycling didn’t log the movement of medical supplies.
British Cycling and Team Sky shared staff, including performance chief Dave Brailsford at the time, and a medical storage facility. That contained “excessive” quantities of triamcinolone if only Wiggins used it or “quite a few people had a similar problem,” UKAD’s Sapstead said.
Jonathan Browning, who was appointed British Cycling chairman last month, said the organization’s medical services processes are being reviewed
“It’s unacceptable that those records were not complete and clear and available,” Browning said.
British Cycling is one of the country’s best-funded national bodies from the government and National Lottery. It received 30 million pounds ($37 million) in the Rio de Janeiro Games cycle and will collect another 26 million pounds from the UK Sport agency in the four-year cycle to fund its Tokyo program.
That cash could be at risk if UK Sport loses faith in British Cycling. The body has to abide by “actions plans … as a condition of grant,” UK Sport chief executive Liz Nicholls said, adding that it was “shocking” to discover British Cycling dispensed drugs to Team Sky without a license as a wholesaler.
“I’m reassured that British Cycling has acted very quickly to say there will be a review of their medical management policy, actually an independent review of their medical management policy and their record keeping,” Nicholls said on Thursday at the Manchester velodrome where both Team Sky and British Cycling are based.
“What we heard in the select committee was not acceptable in terms of the standard of management of obviously delicate matters.”
Britain’s Olympic cycling medals: Beijing 2008 (14), London 2012 (12), Rio 2016 (12).
Team Sky’s Tour de France winners: Bradley Wiggins (2012), Chris Froome (2013, 2015, 2016)