Nicole Cooke slams British Cycling and admits being 'sceptical' about Team Sky - Road Cycling UK

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Nicole Cooke slams British Cycling and admits being ‘sceptical’ about Team Sky

Former world and Olympic champion pulls no punches in front of MPs

Former world and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke slammed British Cycling and admitted she is sceptical of Team Sky’s TUE use.

Cooke was speaking to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport’s select committee on doping – the same committee Bob Howden, Sir Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton faced last month.

And the Welsh ace pulled no punches in her views on UK Sport, Team Sky and British Cycling in light of the recent scandals relating to TUEs and a package delivered to Bradley Wiggins in 2011, now said to have been fluimucil.

Cooke retired in 2013, aged 29, and blasted drug cheats in an emotive statement released upon her leaving the sport.

A long-time campaigner for better recognition and support for women’s cyclists, the Swansea-born 33-year-old also told the committee hearing she believes there is a culture of sexism embedded within British Cycling.

Nicole Cooke slammed British Cycling, Team Sky, UK Sport and UK Anti-Doping in a written statement and video-link appearace before the Department for Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing into issues of doping in sport (Pic: Sirotti)

Though there is no suggestion of any wrongdoing on Wiggins or Team Sky’s part, the former Tour de France champion’s use of therapeutic use exemptions before major races – as revealed by the Fancy Bears’ data hack in the summer – has attracted criticism.

And Cooke admitted the revelations have made her sceptical about the team.

“Taking TUEs before major events – it races questions for me,” she said. “It make me sceptical of what they have done.

“I find the stance of being the cleanest team [despite] Dave Brailsford not being able to know what riders were treated with… it definitely makes it hard to back up that claim.”

She also admitted she was surprised to hear Simon Cope had travelled to the Criterium du Dauphine in 2011 to deliver the medical package to Wiggins, while being apparently unaware of what he was transporting.

Brailsford revealed before the committee in December the package had contained fluimucil, having earlier issued contradictory statements suggesting Cope had actually travelled to meet Emma Pooley, not Wiggins, despite her being in Spain at the time.

British Cycling, despite Howden promising to do so during their grilling from MPs – which came before Brailsford’s revelation – have been unable to find documentary evidence, however.

And Cooke said: “I find it very surprising that Simon Cope was transporting something internationally and he did not know what he was transporting. I find that astonishing.

“I also find it surprising that British Cycling, when asked about something they were storing in their building, weren’t able to find any documentation.”

Cooke won world and Olympic gold in 2008, before retiring in 2013 aged 29 (pic – Sirotti)

Cooke’s wide-ranging comments, which were made in both a written statement and in an appearance by video link, also slammed the inherent sexism within cycling’s governance – both on a national and international level.

“The facts are they did nothing for the women,” Cooke said. “You just have to listen to how they talk about things.”

She cited the fact Team Sky was set up to provide ‘Britain’s first Tour de France champion’ – despite being formed four years after Cooke first won the women’s equivalent, the Grande Boucle Feminine – as evidence.

“They mean a man and that’s what counts in their eyes – to how they allocate resources and what their priorities are,” she added. “So yes, I would say there is sexism there.”

And the Welshwoman admitted she did not see eye-to-eye with the likes of Howden, who she said says sees her as a troublemaker, due to comments he has made to the press.

She was also critical of the UCI’s limit on women’s racing – calling it ‘downright sexism’ that women’s races are often raced on a smaller scale to the men’s equivalents.

Cooke called it ‘downright sexism’ that women’s races are raced on smaller scales to the men’s equivalents (pic – Sirotti)

Cooke’s scathing attack also took aim at UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) who she says have failed to act on statements and meetings she had with them.

“I have no faith in the actions in support of investigations conducted by UKAD or the testing they conduct, both completed at significant expense to the public purse,” she said.

On UK Sport, meanwhile, she was even more critical, pointing the finger directly at senior figures within the body.

“For most of my time racing, I did not see any improvement in their role of holding British Cycling to account,” she said.

“I think there are cases of people in management (at governing bodies) abusing their position and not acting professionally.

“British Cycling have a huge amount of funding and power and they are not being kept in check.

“There should be greater oversight of how those funds are spent based on key data and not people’s whims.”

UK Sport, in response, say they have launched an independent review to investigate some of the issues raised, while UKAD reaffirmed their determination to ‘protect clean sport’.

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