The BBC reported today that former Team Sky rider Josh Edmondson said he violated the UCI's no-needle rule in 2014 by self-injecting vitamin supplements, and the team declined to report the incident to the UCI. While Edmondson claims the team covered up the violation, Sky's head physician Steve Peters says the 24-year-old told them he hadn't performed the injection but only had the equipment to do so.
Edmondson's admission comes amidst a UKAD investigation into Team Sky over the delivery of a package containing medicine from Manchester to the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011 for Bradley Wiggins, and criticisms over their use of the corticosteroid triamcinolone.
Edmondson, now with the Continental team NFTO, was in the last year of his contract with Team Sky and knew he was in jeopardy of not being renewed. He told the BBC he bought syringes and carnitine, folic acid, 'TAD' [reduced glutathione -ed] and an herbal supplement and inject them two or three times a week.
He said he had been tempted to use performance enhancing drugs, but chose this path instead. "This was my way of closing the gap a little without doping," Edmondson said to the BBC. "Some people think there is a grey area, and that's why there is a no-needle policy, but people across sport have been injecting vitamins for years and it is an alternative to doping.
"It's not the same - if you were doping, you are getting massive gains. This is just freshening what you do naturally."
Edmondson only got away with it for a few weeks, saying he picked up the supplements before the Tour of Austria, and then was turned in by a teammate who found his syringes in the Tour of Poland a month later.
Dr Peters then confronted Edmondson. "He fell apart at the seams quite dramatically. A number of things I asked him during that interview really alarmed me," Dr Peters said.
"He was in a very stressful situation. He was aware that his role in the team was in jeopardy," Dr Peters continued. "We sent off the vials, there was only one that was open, the rest were sealed. They turned out to be vitamins which you can buy over the counter, so I asked him 'why on earth would you?' And he had not done any injection, he said he did not know how to use it. All he said was: 'I did not know what to do so I left it.'"
Although he had his suspicions that Edmondson was not telling the truth, he told the team he did not want to take the incident further out of concerns for his well being and worry that a formal case would push Edmondson over the edge.
Edmondson told the BBC that he informed senior management that he had injected the vitamins, and said it was a "cover-up" by the team.
"I think that would have meant a bigger admission for them," Edmondson said to BBC. "They'd have had to say publicly a kid was injecting. Injecting anything's bad. It's not like they were banned substances but injecting is against the rules - to self-administer anything, I believe."
Dr Peters firmly denied the allegation. "It's not a cover-up. Once you use that word you are saying there was an intent behind us to conceal and that was never the case."
Team Sky issued a statement following the publication of the BBC story, reiterating that to their knowledge, Edmondson had not injected himself.
"The senior management team were made aware of this immediately and an investigation was initiated. At the conclusion of this we were satisfied that, while there had been a breach of the team’s own policies, there was no evidence of any anti-doping violation having taken place," the team stated.
Following his admission, Edmondson was placed under observation by the team through the end of his contract, meanwhile Team Sky consulted attorneys who said they were in no obligation to report a violation of the team's rules to the UCI or anti-doping authorities.
"We could have reported it. We could have made a different decision," Dr Peters said. "We'll never know in hindsight. I suppose if I'm looking at safety issues I did think there was a really big risk this lad would be pushed over the edge. I stand by my decision.
"I think I'd definitely have told them if I thought this young man was trying to cheat, but I don't think he was doing that. I think it was a panic reaction. He is making very poor decisions because he is not well, and therefore we need to treat him first of all and then get to the bottom of it. But actually to put him through some kind of investigation or disciplinary at that point could've been very serious and damaged this lad's health."
Team Sky said, "We are satisfied that this incident was handled correctly and we believe that it stands as an example of the robust procedures Team Sky has in place for any concerns to be raised, investigated and properly dealt with."
Edmondson also admitted to the BBC that he abused Tramadol in the same year, obtained from a doctor outside the team, and said it made him depressed. Because he was depressed and going against the team's rules, he was afraid to get help from the staff.
"I'm not trying to pass the buck. I realise I made that mistake," Edmondson said. "It was something I was doing and I don't want to be that guy moaning about how they didn't pick up on it, but if there was another rider in that position now I would want to help them and I would want there to be a system in place to help someone like that. You'd have thought there'd be a system in place to pick up on someone who's depressed, regardless of drug use."
Team Sky insisted they had such protections in place. "We are confident we have mechanisms in place which encourage a rider to bring any issues they may be experiencing to staff in confidence," the team said.
"We are also satisfied that staff are equipped and able to raise any concerns they may have regarding a rider's welfare, and for the team to offer support."
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