The latest and potentially conclusive meeting of the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) anti-doping select committee takes place on Wednesday afternoon at the Palace of Westminster when the details of the UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation into Team Sky are expected to be revealed.
Appearing at the meeting will be Nicole Sapstead, Chief Executive of UKAD, and former British Cycling women's road manager Simon Cope, who delivered the now infamous Jiffy bag to Dr Richard Freeman and Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné. The hearing, which is not under oath, was moved to March 1 to accommodate Cope who has been at a Team Wiggins training camp.
Freeman had been scheduled to appear in front of the committee but the Press Association have reported that the doctor emailed the committee's chairman Damian Collins MP on Tuesday stating that he was too ill to attend. Freeman was set to face questions over the delivery and need for the package during the 2011 Dauphine, as well as the administration of Fluimucil given to Bradley Wiggins at the end of the race. According to the Guardian a spokesperson for the committee said that Freeman may have the options of supplying written testimony or face the committee at a later date. Freeman no longer works for Team Sky but has remained in his position at British Cycling.
Julian Knight MP, part of the committee took to Twitter once news of Freeman's decision not to attend was made public. "News to me. I trust if true Dr Freeman recovers very soon and is then able to appear before us to answer important questions."
The Jiffy-gate affair, as some have dubbed it, has now been running since last autumn, and, allied to questions over Team Sky's use of TUEs during Wiggins' Grand Tour schedules, prompted a UKAD investigation into both Sky and British Cycling.
During the last DCMS hearing in December, Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford informed the committee that team doctor Freeman had told him that the Jiffy bag delivered to Wiggins contained a decongestant. "It was Fluimucil," Brailsford said. Following that hearing, the committee, chaired by MP Damian Collins, requested that evidence was provided of this medication being administered to Wiggins.
Collins, speaking to Cyclingnews, was critical of Sky's inability – to date – to provide evidence of the administration of Fluimicil to Wiggins. "People's faith will be challenged if there are no records," he said. "How do you know if you're running the cleanest team in cycling if you don't have records to show what the doctors are giving the cyclists? If they don't keep those records as a matter of course, how do they police the rules that they set themselves?"
Cope, who travelled from the UK to France to deliver the Jiffy bag to Freeman and Wiggins, told Cyclingnews: "To this day, hand on heart, on my kids' hearts, I do not know what was in there. I was asked to do a job. I'm pretty pissed off really that my name's getting dragged through it. I'm the monkey in this – it's the organ grinders you want to ask.
"I don't see why my name is up there with Dave, Shane (Sutton), the doctor (Freeman) and Brad. I was told by senior management, 'we want you to do that' or 'do this.' The women's road manager is not a full-time job, so if Dave said 'jump' I'd say 'how high?' because I needed the job."
Freeman has remained in his position at during the investigation, despite Jonathan Tiernan-Locke's allegation that he dispensed tramadol to riders before the elite men’s road race at the 2012 Worlds. Luke Rowe and Steve Cummings, part of the British team that day, have rejected Tiernan-Locke’s claim. Freeman has not spoken publicly since the Daily Mail broke the story of Cope's delivery of the Jiffy Bag.
Sapstead and UKAD have been under fire from critics over the rigour of their anti-doping policies for some time, and the investigation into Sky will be under the most intense scrutiny of all. However, as Collins has acknowledged, part of the committee's remit is to ensure that UKAD are fit for purpose.
"One of our concerns will be establishing if UKAD lack the power, resources or authority — or anything else — that may be inhibiting them," Collins said. "We may make final recommendations on what we are told."
While the UKAD investigation into British Cycling and Team Sky will lead the hearing, Collins has suggested that the committee's interest may extend beyond that. "We will also be asking UKAD about historic investigations, possibly including the investigation into the Linda McCartney team," Collins said.
First opened in 2012, after information was passed to UKAD by The Times newspaper, there is confusion over the status of this investigation, particularly as any alleged doping offences would have occurred outside the current statute of limitations. Several key figures within the team later worked for British Cycling and Team Sky.
"It's not one of the areas we’ve looked at yet," Collins said of the current statute of limitations, "But it’s something we may have a view on for the final report."
Tomorrow's hearing is expected to be the last, according to Collins, "unless something comes out that warrants a further hearing."
The committee is expected to report on their findings in late March.