British Cycling overhaul medical practices after independent investigation

Following an independent review, British Cycling is set to overhaul its medical governance, which will see it, among making other steps, appoint a new 'Head of Medicine.'

The governing body will also create a Clinical Governance Committee, which will report to the board, and a rider health function within the medical team, in order to reduce the risk of injury and perform research into 'mental health mitigation'.

Under the structural changes, the future of Dr Richard Freeman, who has described himself as British Cycling's Head of Medicine, is uncertain. According to a report by the Press Association, a spokesperson for British Cycling says that the changes do not mean that he has no future at the organisation. The same article states that the new role will be more senior than the one Dr Freeman currently holds and will have a different reporting line and responsibilities.

Dr Freeman was thrown into the spotlight last year after it was revealed by the Daily Mail that he had received a medical package for Bradley Wiggins following the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine. After denying the existence of the package initially, Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford claimed during a hearing with British MPs that the package contained the decongestant Fluimicil. It has also been claimed that Dr Freeman gave injections of triamcinolone to staff members at British Cycling. Brailsford later confirmed that he had been given an injection of the corticosteroid to treat a knee injury. Dr Freeman is currently signed off work with a stress-related illness.

Both British Cycling and Team Sky are at the centre of an investigation by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD), the results of which are yet to be released.

The overhaul of the medical structure by British Cycling will be seen as a positive pre-emptive step ahead of the official report. The English Institute of Sport's Director of Medical Services, Dr Rod Jaques, who took on the investigation, said that he was delighted that his recommendations had been taken on board.

"I found members I met with from the British Cycling Medical Team to be competent professionals, working to the best of their abilities within their current structures," he said.

"To ensure that athletes are served in ways that best support performance and allow professionals to develop, the review outlines reforms that will bolster both areas and ensure that British Cycling makes changes to ensure the highest standards of professionalism and care. I am delighted that my recommendations have been immediately accepted."

As well as the new Head of Medicine, the medical team will split in two to look at both prevention and cure. Medical Services would look at medical care, medicine management and record keeping, while the Rider Health division would focus more on preventative measures. According to the statement issued by British Cycling, a code of conduct will be implemented to ensure that aspects such as record keeping are looked after properly.

Rider Health will look at "optimising bike ergonomics; running research into reducing injury and illness; research into mental health risk mitigation; and rider anti-doping and lifestyle education."

The Clinical Governance Committee, the statement says, will be the first in UK sports governance. It will be made up of internal British Cycling staff, including new CEO Julie Harrington, and external advisors "to maintain clinical governance standards."

"The creation of the Clinical Governance Committee underlines the importance of having the right people, structures and processes in place so that British Cycling can provide our athletes with best in class medical services," said British Cycling chairman Jonathan Browning.

"The speed with which we are introducing changes across the organisation is testament to our determination to look to the future and make British Cycling an NGB (National Governing Body)  that is revered around the world as we serve the sport of cycling."

The news of the medical changes follows news earlier this week that there will be a shake-up in British Cycling's board, which could see people such as Browning required to re-apply for their jobs.

British Cycling has also sought to separate itself from Team Sky and has reportedly asked the team to leave their offices at Manchester Velodrome. 

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