UK Anti-Doping Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead has heavily criticised British Cycling and Team Sky over their inability to keep vital medical records.
Speaking at the Department of Culture Media and Sport’s (DCMS) anti-doping committee, Sapstead answered questions regarding UKAD’s ongoing investigation into a potential anti-doping violation. She told the committee that her investigation had been met by obfuscation from Team Sky and British Cycling and that Dr. Richard Freeman – a central figure in the investigation – had failed to keep proper documentation of his work.
Sapstead stated that both British Cycling and Team Sky were unable to provide any concentre evidence to back up their claim that a medical package prescribed to Bradley Wiggins contained a legal decongestant.
Sapstead also discussed the allegation that the package contained the powerful drug triamcinolone. The investigation has uncovered that large quantities of triamcinolone were ordered by Freeman through British Cycling. However, he failed to log medical records with both British Cycling and Team Sky before reporting his laptop stolen in 2014. He could face serious questions from the General Medical Council (GMC), who have cooperated with UKAD during the investigation.
The investigation was launched in 2016 after the Daily Mail reported that a medical package had been transported from British Cycling’s base in Manchester to Freeman, who, then working for British Cycling and Team Sky, administered the contents to Bradley Wiggins. It was claimed by Freeman and Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford that the package contained the legal decongestant Fluimucil, and that Wiggins was treated on the final day of the Dauphine.
In a lengthy appearance in front of members of Parliament, Sapstead told the committee that UKAD had met resistance during their investigation and that no evidence had been uncovered that collaborated Brailsford's and Freeman’s claim surrounding the use of Fluimucil. Sapstead added that UKAD had investigated an allegation that the package contained the substance triamcinolone – the drug that Wiggins was legally granted three times as a TUE in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
"We are not able to confirm or refute that it contained Fluimucil," Sapstead said in relation to the package.
"We have asked for inventories and medical records, and we have not been able to ascertain that because there are no records. There are no records kept by Dr. Freeman. There are no records whatsoever of any treatment during the course of that event [Dauphine - ed.].
"Dr. Freeman kept medical records on a laptop and he was meant to adhere to Team Sky policy, that the other doctors followed, of uploading the medical records to a dropbox that all the doctors had access to," Sapstead said. "Then in 2014 we have been informed that his laptop was stolen."
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Sapstead confirmed that the package had been requested by Freeman and that Shane Sutton asked former British Cycling employee Simon Cope to fly it from Manchester to the Dauphine. The package was put together in Manchester by British Cycling physio Phil Burt. Sapstead added that her investigators had talked to Burt but that he had no memory of the contents.
"We’ve asked a wealth of people as to what was in the package, including Phil Burt, who put the package together, and he has no recollection whatsoever as to what he put in the package and neither does anyone else," she said.
According to Sapstead, medical staff at Team Sky had a protocol that involved all medical products being catalogued and that if riders were given prescriptions, then medical staff had a duty to upload the information to a shared drive.
The investigation – which is still on going – found that medical products were ordered and stored at British Cycling but that a lack of paper work meant that it was impossible to decipher what was used for British Cycling or Team Sky athletes.
"There is no audit trail of what is going in and out of a comprehensive supply of medical products," Sapstead said.
"We have seen invoices and records that when he was ordering medical products he was wearing one of those two hats. However, when those medicines, products, they were all delivered, primarily, to the Manchester velodrome and they were kept in one area and with no segregation over British Cycling and Team Sky. We have no records of what was going in and out from that medical supply."
How much triamcinolone?
The UKAD head also confirmed that significant amounts of triamcinolone had been ordered through British Cycling with the quantities ‘far more’ than what would be needed for one rider. It could not, however, been ascertained as to how many athletes have been given the substance.
“We’ve seen orders Team Sky and British Cycling that indicate that triamcinolone has been ordered," Sapstead said.
Committee chair Damian Collins asked Sapstead if the volume of triamcinolone ordered outweighed the doses legally prescribed to Bradley Wiggins for his approved TUES.
“Yes,” she replied. “Specifically, in relation to Bradley Wiggins, yes. There was far more. You would either think that it was an excessive amount of triamcinolone ordered for one person or quite a few people had a similar problem.”
UKAD’s remit in their investigation only covers the medical records of one rider – Bradley Wiggins.
According to Sapstead, Freeman – who was meant to appear in front of the committee but informed that he was too ill – could face questions from the General Medical Council over his inability to keep and then provide the vital medical records.
Freeman was offered the chance to submit evidence via a video conference call – and according to the Mail he declined. The committee stated on Wednesday that they would write to Freeman with several questions and left the door open with regards to calling further witnesses.
On Wednesday evening, Team Sky released a statement.
"Team Sky has co-operated fully with UKAD’s investigation, and we will continue to do so," the statement read. "As we have said throughout, we are confident there has been no wrongdoing.
"Our commitment to anti-doping has been one of the founding principles of the team from the very start. Team Sky is a clean team. We abide by the rules and we are proud of our stance against doping. Any medical treatment, whatever its status, would only ever be given to a Team Sky rider if it was considered to be medically appropriate and justified.
"We have worked hard to put the right governance structures in place, and we believe that our approach to anti-doping is rigorous and comprehensive. We continuously look to strengthen our own processes and systems, which have evolved since our formation.