Team Sky crossed an ethical line in their use of the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone to treat Sir Bradley Wiggins ahead of his 2012 Tour de France win, according to a report by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Select Committee.
Chaired by MP Damian Collins, the committee has been examining doping in sport, including speaking to several key figures from British Cycling and Team Sky, and looking into the allegations regarding the ‘jiffy bag’ delivered to Dr Richard Freeman at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.
And in a damning conclusion, the report has questioned the official line – as given by Sir Dave Brailsford in front of the committee – that the package used to administer treatment to Wiggins contained Fluimucil.
They have also slammed Brailsford for Team Sky and British Cycling’s lack of accurate medical record keeping and called on WADA to consider a complete ban on corticosteroids and the painkiller Tramadol.
Citing evidence provided by Brailsford, Shane Sutton, Dr Freeman, Simon Cope, Wiggins, former Team Sky riders Josh Edmondson and Jonathan Tiernan-Locke, and an unnamed whistleblower, the report is highly critical of both Team Sky and British Cycling.
Most damning was their view that, regardless of what was in the ‘jiffy bag’, Team Sky’s use of triamcinolone – banned in competition without a therapeutic use exemption (TUE), but allowed out-of-competition – was for purely performance-enhancing reasons.
"We believe that this powerful corticosteroid was being used to prepare Bradley Wiggins, and possibly other riders supporting him, for the Tour de France" - Department for Culture, Media & Sport report
“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," their final paper read.
“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. In this case, and contrary to the testimony of David Brailsford in front of the Committee, we believe that drugs were being used by Team Sky, within the WADA rules, to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need."
Wiggins has already denied the allegations, however, taking to Twitter in the early hours of the morning to say: “I find it so sad that accusations can be made, where people can be accused of things they have never done which are then regarded as facts.
“I strongly refute the claim that any drug was used without medical need. I hope to have my say in the next few days & put my side across."
“I find it so sad that accusations can be made, where people can be accused of things they have never done which are then regarded as facts" - Sir Bradley Wiggins
The report has also questioned the team’s claim it was Fluimucil in the package delivered to Wiggins at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2011.
“To many people, the whole story of the package seems implausible, to say the least," read's the DCMS report. "If the package was needed urgently, why, according to travel records given to the Committee by British Cycling, did Simon Cope collect it from Manchester on 8th June, but not fly out with it until 12th June?
“If the package did indeed contain Fluimucil, why was someone asked to bring it out from Manchester, when one of the pharmacies where Team Sky had previously sourced this same drug was just a few hours’ drive away in Switzerland, at the Pharmacie De La Plaine, in Yverdon?"
The report is also highly critical of Brailsford, and questioned the strength of Team Sky’s claims to be ‘winning clean’, given the poor medical record keeping – no records exist of treatment administered to Wiggins at the 2011 Dauphine, due to Dr Freeman’s failure to upload them to a shared Dropbox and later loss of his laptop.
It is said Brailsford must shoulder responsibility for the ‘damaging scepticism’ of the team’s achievements since their foundation in 2010.
“Team Sky’s statements that coaches and team managers are largely unaware of the methods used by the medical staff to prepare pro-cyclists for major races seem incredible, and inconsistent with their original aim of “winning clean", and maintaining the highest ethical standards within their sport," the paper reads.
“How can David Brailsford ensure that his team is performing to his requirements, if he does not know and cannot tell, what drugs the doctors are giving the riders?
“David Brailsford must take responsibility for these failures, the regime under which Team Sky riders trained and competed and the damaging scepticism about the legitimacy of his team’s performance and accomplishments."
British Cycling have responded to the publication of the report by highlighting the reforms they have already made since the enquiry was started.
CEO Julie Harrington said: “This enquiry had a catalytic effect on our organisation. As the sport’s national governing body, we need to be beyond reproach when it comes to both our competence and conduct.
“Since I took on the role of chief executive in May last year, we have made significant changes across our organisation including a governance overhaul; new leadership on the executive team; reviewed areas that were found to be weak; and implemented new procedures to ensure that we operate to the highest standards and within world leading guidelines.
“These reforms aim to ensure that the failures identified in the Committee’s enquiry will never happen again. We remain committed to ensuring that our organisation can stand up to the highest levels of public and professional scrutiny."
British Cycling’s press release also confirmed Dr Richard Freeman had been referred to the General Medical Council (GMC) for investigation – another of the report’s recommendations.