British Cycling has responded to the closure of UK Anti-Doping’s investigation into the controversial medical package delivered from its store cupboard in Manchester to Bradley Wiggins at a pro race in France. It emphasized the progress it has made since the investigation began more than a year ago.
UKAD announced on Wednesday that no anti-doping charges would be brought against British Cycling, Team Sky, or Wiggins, due to a failure to establish the contents of the package. David Brailsford said the 'jiffy bag' contained the legal decongestant Fluimucil, but neither Sky nor British Cycling have been able to provide documentation backing up the claim, and the lack of medical records will be the subject of a follow-up inquiry.
“UKAD’s investigation was particularly challenging in light of a lack of contemporaneous medical records," read the UKAD statement, with the agency's chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, going on to voice her "serious concern”.
Information has been passed to the General Medical Council (GMC), which has confirmed it is looking into the evidence, though its focus will not include the jiffy bag specifically.
In a statement issued shortly after the UKAD announcement on Wednesday, British Cycling CEO Julie Harrington said: “I would like to thank Nicole Sapstead and her team at UKAD for the diligence and determination they have shown in investigating this matter. Their work on this, and throughout sport, is essential if we are to earn and retain the trust of athletes and fans.
“UKAD’s findings represent an organisation and culture that, despite delivering on the world stage, did not meet the high standards that British Cycling today holds itself to. We note that UKAD have referred information arising from their investigation to the General Medical Council and we offer them our wholehearted cooperation."
Harrington touched on the changes that have taken place at British Cycling since UKAD opened its investigation more than 12 months ago. Along with significant restructuring at board level, the governing body sought to overhaul its medical governance, opening a ‘head of medicine’ position and creating a Clinical Governance Committee and a rider health function.
“British Cycling have implemented a number of significant changes to the management of our medical services to the Great Britain Cycling Team following a review instigated in March by chair Jonathan Browning, shortly after his appointment,” Harrington said. “This was an external review led by Dr Rod Jaques of the English Institute of Sport and all of his recommendations have been accepted by British Cycling. We welcome UKAD's support for these changes."
Another area of controversy throughout the affair has been the relationship between British Cycling, the publicly-funded governing body, and Team Sky, the professional international road team.
A wide range of resources was shared between the two organisations, which was perhaps most colourfully illustrated by the fact that it was a British Cycling employee, Simon Cope, who was ordered to transport the medical package to France for a doctor, Richard Freeman, who worked across both set-ups.
"The association between British Cycling and Team Sky has been a positive force for cycling in this country. However, we accept that the relationship between British Cycling and Team Sky developed rapidly and as a result, at times, resulted in the blurring of the boundaries between the two. This led to some failings in the way that processes and people were managed," acknowledged Harrington.
"Today, based on our learning together there are clear boundaries and distinctions between our two organisations: no one is simultaneously employed by British Cycling and Team Sky; and we each have our own practices in place for managing athlete records."
Harrington concluded with a message of hope for the reputation and credibility of her organisation.
"My focus now is on ensuring that we can give athletes and the public the reassurance they need to believe in our ability to win clean on the biggest global stages because of the systems and controls we have put in place. We are intent on ensuring that the integrity of our record keeping is never called into question again.”