• Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
In its report into doping in UK sport published today, the UK parliament's Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee said it believed Team Sky crossed ethical lines in preparation for Bradley Wiggins' 2012 Tour de France victory.
By
Cycling Central

5 Mar 2018 - 1:04 PM  UPDATED 5 Mar 2018 - 8:24 PM

Released at midnight on Monday in the UK, the report came short of accusing the team of violating WADA's code in relation to the use of the corticosteroid triamcinolone but said "in this case and contrary to the testimony of David Brailsford in front of the Committee, we believe that the drugs were being used by Team Sky, within the WADA rules, to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need." 

The Committee believed the TUE system is generally "open to abuse" and "the question inevitably remains, that if an athlete is so ill that they can only compete using a drug that is otherwise banned during competition, then why are they competing at all?"

The Committee's investigation began in 2015 and focused on issues in athletics and on Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs). It broadened to cycling following the Fancy Bears hack in 2016 which leaked details of Wiggins' TUEs for powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone prior to three grand tours from 2011 to 2013. 

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Of this use the Committe stated: "From the evidence that has been received by the Committee regarding the use of triamcinolone at Team Sky during the period under investigation, and particularly in 2012, we believe that this powerful corticosteroid was being used to prepare Bradley Wiggins, and possibly other riders supporting him, for the Tour de France. 

"The purpose of this was not to treat medical need, but to improve his power to weight ratio ahead of the race.

"The application for the TUE for the triamcinolone for Bradley Wiggins, ahead of the 2012 Tour de France, also meant that he benefited from the performance enhancing properties of this drug during the race.

"This does not constitute a violation of the WADA code, but it does cross the ethical line that David Brailsford says he himself drew for Team Sky."

Of the infamous 'Jiffygate' the Committee said it was not in a position to say what was in the package delivered to Team Sky in La Toussuire 12 June 2011 but the 'whole story...seems implausible to say the least." 

Wiggins has already taken to social media to pour scorn on the report. 

Key quotes from the report:  

It is clear from the evidence the Committee has considered that the Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) system is open to abuse. The assessment of medical need has been based too closely on trying to achieve a peak level of physical condition in the athlete, rather than returning them to a normal state of health.

In the period up to 2014, when TUEs could be granted based on the assessment of the team doctor, and a single doctor at the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), the potential for abuse in the system was even greater.

We welcome the reforms made by WADA since this time, to create clearer guidelines and requirements before a TUE can be issued. The TUE system needs to be kept under permanent review, but the question inevitably remains, that if an athlete is so ill that they can only compete using a drug that is otherwise banned during competition, then why are they competing at all?

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The investigation by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) into the alleged anti-doping rule violation by Team Sky in 2011 was made much harder by the failure of both the team managers, and British Cycling to ensure proper records were kept relating to the supply of medicines and the treatment of athletes.

It is not acceptable that Dr Freeman should have been able to act during the period under investigation without proper supervision. It should have been ensured that the medical records for Bradley Wiggins were uploaded to the shared cloud storage system, as then required by Team Sky. The General Medical Council (GMC) should investigate Dr Freeman for his failings, and, if he is found to have breached their rules, take appropriate action against him.

We welcome the recent changes in policy at British Cycling to ensure greater oversight of medical professionals working within their sport. However, we believe that UK Sport should determine an amount of compensation that should be due to UKAD from British Cycling and Team Sky, to cover the costs of an investigation that was made longer and harder by their failure to keep proper records.

UK Sport and Sport England should also include a requirement in the Governance Code for national governing bodies, that they have policies in place to ensure that best practice in being followed in respect of drugs use, and the keeping of medical records, within their sport.

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