Former Sky rider Joshua Edmondson has spoken out about his use of intravenous injections during his employment with Team Sky. He was in contravention of Sky's 'no-needle' policy at the time but the team chose not to disclose the incident to authorities when he was discovered.
Cycling Central

17 Mar 2017 - 10:17 AM 

Joshua Edmondson raced with Team Sky in the 2013 and 2014 seasons and came out recently in a revealing interview with the BBC to admit that he had been intravenously injecting vitamins and supplements as well as taking the powerful opioid Tramadol during his stint with Team Sky.

"In 2014 I was under a lot of pressure, not just from the team but from myself," said Edmondson in the BBC interview.

"I think it was just before the Tour of Austria, I went to Italy to buy the vitamins that I was going to later inject. I brought them all back to Nice. I bought butterfly clips, the syringes, the carnitine, folic acid, 'TAD', damiana compositum, and (vitamin) B12, and I'd just inject that two or three times a week maybe. Especially when I wanted to lose weight, I'd inject the carnitine more often because it was very effective."

Edmondson talked about his mental state at the time as well, which was one of desperation and anxiety at the pressure to perform with the team that had given him his shot at the big time.

"It dawned on me while I was doing it how extreme it was, putting the needle in and making sure there are no bubbles because if there is air in it, it can give you a heart attack and people can die from that. It is a very daunting thing to be doing, especially as I was sat in a room in a foreign country alone at night. It's just a very surreal thing you do. It's not something you take lightly. You're doing it out of necessity really."

Edmondson admits that the temptation was there for him to dope and whilst the substances he took were legal at the time, he was still in breach of UCI rules by injecting himself with a needle. Edmondson explained the performance-enhancing aspect of the vitamins and supplements he was using.

"This was my way of closing the gap a little without doping. Some people think there is a grey area, and that's why there is a no-needle policy, but people across sport have been injecting vitamins for years and it is an alternative to doping. It's not the same. If you were doping, you are getting massive gains. This is just freshening what you do naturally."

Edmondson's situation became known to the team when Edmondson's roommate discovered his stash and injecting equipment in a joint hotel room, where upon he took photos and informed team staff. Dr Peters, then head of medicine for Team Sky was one of the key staff members that dealt with Edmondson after the discovery.

"He fell apart at the seams quite dramatically. A number of things I asked him during that interview really alarmed me," said Dr Peters.

The decision to not disclose the information that Edmondson was in breach of the team rules publicly was made in accordance with Dr Peters' judgement that it may have been detrimental to his health. In addition, Edmondson said in his initial conversations with team management that he hadn't injected anything.

"I was now in a position where I can say the welfare of the athlete was number one. Obviously, I'm working with the team and anti-doping is a secondary issue but a really important one, and we have to address it, so Josh explained that he had never used needles before.

"Wearing my hat as a doctor, for somebody to be culpable they cannot be ill and I suspect he was ill. If he's not able to give informed consent to what he is doing and say, 'I understand this', then in my world, as a psychiatrist, you are not culpable, because your illness is talking.

"The second point from me is, let's say we went ahead at that point because obviously I do not want to cover anything up - there is no way I'm going to do that. But what is the consequence of him suddenly being exposed if I'm right and he's not well? The reason I stopped it in its tracks is my concern has always got to be for the welfare of the individual."

Joshua Edmondson said that the team covered up the incident after it became known to them but that claim is disputed by Team Sky and Dr Peters.

Dr Peters went into some detail on the process that then went on within Team Sky about whether to make the case public or to inform the UCI and WADA (World Anti-Doping Authority) about the incident. Team Sky say they took legal advice at the time of the incident and say that, although Edmondson had been in breach of team rules by possessing the equipment, they were under no obligation to report the case to the authorities. Edmondson's lie about not injecting proved to work for all parties in the immediate fallout.

"There are shades of grey," said Dr Peters. "Let's be honest, none of us were comfortable but we had a lot of discussion around this and one thing we could say was he violated our rules. On the UCI technicality, he had not violated because he told us very clearly at the time that he had not done the injection because he did not know how to use the needle. This is what he told us at the time."

Edmondson also admitted that he used the powerful opioid painkiller Tramadol during the 2013 Tour of Britain. Again, this was in breach of Team Sky policy but not against wider anti-doping rules and the Tramadol was administered by a race doctor without the team doctor's knowledge, according to a statement released by the team.