British Cycling was warned about the dangers of its relationship with Team Sky just months before women’s coach Simon Cope embarked on a four-day journey to deliver a medical package for Bradley Wiggins, it has emerged.
As part of evidence requested by British parliament's Culture, Media, and Sport Committee in the wake of a hearing last week, British Cycling has submitted a report from an audit carried out by Deloitte early in 2011. According to The Times, it contains assurances from senior figures that "for the 2011 season the amount of resource sharing is expected to be minimal" and that Shane Sutton would work "almost exclusively" with Team GB rather than Sky.
Team Sky, the professional road outfit, was launched in 2010 with the involvement of many senior figures at British Cycling, the publicly-funded governing body.
"A doping scandal within Team Sky would undoubtedly present a serious reputational risk to UK Sport, British Cycling and Sky," added the report. "However, all reasonably possible precautions against the doping risk appear to have been taken."
Three months later, Sutton, with Team Sky in La Toussuire at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, 'arranged' for the now-infamous medical package to be delivered by Cope from the UK for Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman. At the Select Committee hearing, Sutton confirmed that the contents of the package were given to Wiggins on the Team Sky bus, with Brailsford then claiming that it contained the legal decongestant fluimucil.
British Cycling promised to clear up the mystery over the contents of the package, but have been unable to provide documentary evidence to substantiate Brailsford's suggestion.
News of Deloitte's warnings about resource sharing comes just after it was revealed that Cope's bill for the trip came to almost £600, which was then charged back to Team Sky. In October, Cope told Cyclingnews he was also helping to run training camps for Wiggins at Sky and that he had "spent a month in Mallorca with Brad and the lads motor pacing".
He travelled from London to Manchester on June 8, presumably to pick up the medication, before heading back to London and flying from Gatwick to Geneva on June 12, renting a car to drive to the Sky bus, and returning that same evening. Questions have arisen over why Sky went to such lengths to obtain a drug that is readily available in nearby French pharmacies for less than 10 Euro, with Wiggins' former doctor, Prentice Steffen, telling Cyclingnews that the version of events "just struck me as a bit of an odd hand to play and an insufficient explanation".
Concerns over the relationship between British Cycling and Team Sky were raised on Thursday by former World and Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, who, in a column for The Guardian, claimed resources were being diverted away from women's cycling as a result.
She wrote about how she had urged Cope to arrange a training camp ahead of the World Championships in Copenhagen, but this was turned down by senior management.
"Why did the top management deem it acceptable to use the publicly funded national women's team road manager, Simon Cope, in the role of a basic courier?" Cooke asked.
"Could anyone quantify the impact Cope's moonlighting away from his publicly funded role, and the failure to conduct a single camp for the British women's road team he was meant to manage, had on our failure in Copenhagen?"
The parliamentary committee could call for fresh testimony and new witnesses – possibly Freeman – in a bid to get to the bottom of the issue, but will wait until the conclusion of UK Anti Doping's investigation, which British Cycling president Bob Howden has said has thus far limited his ability to provide information to the MPs.