Nicole Cooke questions why Simon Cope was acting as Sky courier

Olympic champion links sexism claims with 'jiffy bag' inquiry

Former Olympic champion Nicole Cooke has added another dimension to the ongoing saga of the purported delivery of cough medication to Bradley Wiggins at the Criterium du Dauphine in 2011, questioning why the manager of the women's national team, Simon Cope, was acting as a courier for Team Sky.

Former technical director Shane Sutton confirmed that a padded envelope was transported by Cope from the UK to France for Bradley Wiggins during the 2011 race during a Parliamentary hearing of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee.

"I can usefully add other dimensions," Cooke wrote in her column in The Guardian. "Three of the four witnesses before the committee have just spent six months locked into an investigation asking: “Does sexism exist in British Cycling?”

The Times revealed today that Cope's trip cost some £600 in expenses, and questioned why Team Sky delayed treating Wiggins, who had apparently been suffering from health issues en route to winning the overall Dauphine – choosing to instead wait and send Cope with a package which, according to David Brailsford, contained Fluimucil, a drug readily available at French pharmacies near the race.

Cooke added another angle: "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 called revelations that Cope had been working with Sky and running training camps for Wiggins "entirely new and disturbing".

"Throughout early 2011 I was attempting to get Cope to run a single training camp for the women riders he was meant to be managing," Cooke wrote. "At the world championships in 2010 I had been fourth and lack of teamwork was a factor in not getting a better result. For 2011 I hoped to regain my crown of 2008. Of course we were also looking forward to London 2012, where I would be defending champion.

"Eventually I got Cope to agree to a camp to prepare for the world championships in Copenhagen and we both proposed it to Brailsford and Sutton – the same pair who apparently think it fine to fly a courier with a €10 med 1,000 miles across Europe.

"I have the email and Sutton's response turning down the training camp suggestion. Nothing was put in its place, and so the women went to another world championships without having conducted a single team camp. Needless to say our team preparation was insufficient."

Claims that Sutton had used discriminatory language to former track sprinter Jess Varnish were recently upheld in a separate internal investigation by British Cycling. Cooke backed up Varnish's claims of a sexist culture in the high performance programme. UK Sport followed up with an additional, independent investigation into the culture at British Cycling that is still ongoing.

Cooke continued: "The MPs were good enough to ask if the public purse was refunded for the €10 meds supplied from British Cycling and perhaps an air ticket. It now appears Sky paid Cope's expenses. A more pertinent question for me might be: 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?" 

Team Sky declined to comment for this story, citing the ongoing UKAD investigation. British Cycling was contacted for comment but could not be reached due to the holiday closure.

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