Simon Cope, the former British Cycling national coach and now the Wiggins team manager, has admitted he could be described as "the most over-qualified delivery boy" for his role in couriering the mystery package to Team Sky at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.
Cope admitted he was "ticked-off" at being in the centre of the investigation, resenting that his name has been all over the media because of his links to the case that undermined the credibility of Team Sky and British Cycling
Asked if he felt "stitched up" and "left to dangle", Cope said "yes".
Cope was grilled for 50 minutes by British Members of Parliament on the details of why and how he took the package from Britain to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman, who then treated Bradley Wiggins. Team Sky team manger Dave Brailsford was questioned in December, but Bradley Wiggins has not yet been questioned by MPs. Dr. Freeman claimed he is ill and so was unable to face questioning today.
In later questioning, UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead confirmed that Wiggins told UKAD that he was treated with the asthma drug Fluimucil via a nebuliser by Dr. Freeman. However, Sapstead confirmed there is no medical record or proof of any kind that the mysterious package contained Fluimucil.
Cope took a defiant stance during his questioning, recalling anecdotes from his many other trips abroad but also claiming he struggled to remember key details of the specific trip to the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.
When contradictions emerged about Cope’s recollections and the expenses he claimed for the trip, he flippantly suggested: "Maybe I tried to fiddle 'em. We all try to fiddle them, don’t we?"
Numerous British MP have long been at the centre of investigations into possible fraudulent expense claims. Laughter echoed through the room but none of the MP in the committee room reacted to Cope’s comment.
Cope was left to face the barrage of questions, with his answers and those of Sapstead only sparking more questions about how Team Sky and Dr. Freeman operated.
- Cope: I don't know what was in the package for Team Sky
- Simon Cope to speak to UK Anti-Doping as investigation continues
- UKAD investigation rolls on as Brailsford's parliamentary questioning looms
- Timeline of UKAD investigation into Team Sky and British Cycling
- Brailsford dodges questions about UKAD investigation at Team Sky's Mallorca camp
- Cope: Select committee? I am meant to be at a Wiggins camp
Cope confirmed the package he took to France was sealed, and he insisted he did not know the contents. He said he put it in his hold luggage and took it out to Team Sky via a flight to Geneva in Switzerland. He refuted suggestions that he should have asked about the contents of the package to respect European customs laws. He also refuted suggestions that it was strange he had hold luggage if he returned from the race on the same day.
Cope claimed he did not remember going to Manchester specifically to collect the package, suggesting he was based in Manchester during the week.
"It wasn’t given to me, it was left on a desk. It was a jiffy bag with a post-it note saying: 'For Simon, for Dr. Freeman'," Cope said, answering specific questions.
"I’ve told you all I know. I was asked to take it by my employers. I was in a position where my role was not full time and so I was trying to secure a job, so any little job I was asked to do, I’d do. That was it."
He added: "If you’re paying someone a salary, you want to get your pound of flesh, don’t you?"
Cope was asked if he was paid a sufficient amount not to ask questions. He refused to reveal his salary, joking: "It was not a three-figure sum."
"I was a gap filler. I didn’t have a role other than managing the women’s road team, which was really an administrating role," he claimed.
“You run the World Championships, that was it. All the ladies were in pro teams and they provided them with a race programme. My role was to keep them up to date with UCI rankings, so gain maximum places in the Olympics. It was a part-time role."