Bradley Wiggins’ former doctor provided British Cycling and Team Sky staff with corticosteroids medication at the organisation’s base in Manchester.
Dr Richard Freeman, who is at the centre of the UK-Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation into a potential drug violation, ordered large quantities of triamcinolone - the substance Bradley Wiggins was legally given in the build-up to three Grand Tours between 2011 and 2013.
UKAD stated at the Parliamentary select committee hearing on Wednesday that the quantity of the substance ordered was ‘far more’ than needed for one person, and that Freeman’s medical records were lost when his laptop was stolen while on holiday in Greece in 2014. Freeman, who has a diploma in musculoskeletal medicine, was scheduled to appear in front of the select committee but pulled out at the last minute due to illness.
The doctor’s inability to provide a complete history of medical records to UKAD as part of their investigation has left Team Sky’s and British Cycling’s credibility in ‘a terrible position’, according to the chair of the select committee.
A report on Thursday evening alleged that Freeman had “administered controversial medication, not just to riders but to staff, family and friends.” Dr Freeman did not respond when contacted by Cyclingnews.
On Friday, Team Sky confirmed to Cyclingnews that they had been informed by Freeman that, as part of his British Cycling and Team Sky Manchester-based staff medical service, he treated some patients with triamcinolone. When contacted by Cyclingnews, UKAD refused to comment.
Team Sky also confirmed that in 2011 the team had nine doctors working part-time for them and good medical practice dictated that doctors keep their own notes, which was at the time being done locally by each doctor. This meant riders had to inform doctors at each race about their recent medical history. A medical Dropbox was set up in order to streamline this process, so that doctors could see what pre-existing issues riders had as well as any medication given to riders, so that staff already knew of riders’ medical history before racing started.
According to Team Sky, Freeman was reminded repeatedly to use Dropbox but he failed to adhere to the team’s protocol – protocol that was not in place at British Cycling. This week British Cycling admitted to making mistakes in their working practices surrounding medical supply after UKAD stated that there had been no audit trail regarding the arrival and departure of medical products ordered by Freeman to the British Cycling base in Manchester.
When Freeman’s laptop was reported stolen in 2014 he informed both British Cycling and Team Sky. The national organisation then wiped the stolen machine.
Team Sky have told Cyclingnews that the laptop was encrypted, meaning that Freeman is unlikely to face a possible fine from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), which enforces practising laws over data protection. UKAD are working with Interpol to determine whether Freeman reported the theft to local police.
Prentice Steffen, a doctor at Cannondale Drapac, last night told Cyclingnews that he had doubts over Freeman’s claim that a medical package sent to the Criterium du Dauphine in 2011 in order to treat Bradley Wiggins contained the legal decongestant, Fluimucil. British Cycling, Team Sky and Freeman have been unable to provide UKAD with any evidence to collaborate the claim.
Murdoch pledges continued backing for Team Sky
With Damian Collins MP, head of the Culture Media and Sport select committee, describing the credibility of Team Sky as being “in tatters”, the faith and patience of Sky, the sponsor and parent company, has been called into question.
However, James Murdoch, chairman of Sky plc, expressed commitment to the team in a brief exchange with the Telegraph on Thursday.
“We’re looking forward to a great season and the team looks really strong,” he said. “We are backing them and we’re enthusiastic about their future success.”
Back in October, when the scandal was in its infancy, Team Sky board chairman Graham McWilliam issued a message of support, and has since given no indication that his stance has changed.
“I can assure you of Sky’s full and continued support. There is no equivocation on our part. We trust you, we believe in you and we remain as excited about this sport as ever,” he said.