Emma Pooley has talked to Cyclingnews about where she was on 12th June 2011 and asked Team Sky and Dave Brailsford to clarify their statements on the matter Team Sky and Dave Brailsford incorrectly suggested that a member of British Cycling staff, Simon Cope, travelled to France to meet Pooley when in fact he was delivering a medical package to Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.
On Friday Pooley found herself in the middle of a media storm, her phone inundated with messages and calls due to a report in the Daily Mail.
Pooley is typically interviewed about her athletic performances or her thoughts on the state of women's cycling but on this occasion it was her whereabouts on June 12th 2011 that was called into question.
This was because Dave Brailsford had initially told the Mail that British Cycling staff member Simon Cope had travelled to the Dauphine to meet with Pooley. It was later reported by the Mail, and confirmed by Team Sky and British Cycling, that Cope had in fact travelled to France at Team Sky's request. British Cycling also later confirmed to the Mail that the package he delivered contained a medical substance. Pooley was in Spain at the time, competing in a women's stage race, several hundred miles away from the Dauphine.
While British Cycling and Team Sky are now in the middle of a UKAD investigation into potential wrongdoing, the initial statement that Cope was visiting Pooley has created further questions. How, when concise facts were clearly demanded by the Mail was such an excuse given?
Speaking to Cyclingnews, Pooley added further details regarding her whereabouts on the date in question: "The only thing I know is where I was on June 12th and I absolutely was not meeting anyone from British Cycling, anywhere. Certainly not Simon Cope at La Toussuire. I was at a stage race in Spain losing the yellow jersey on a descent in the rain. I can distinctly remember it because it was a bit of a disaster. I looked up my old training diary to see if I'd forgotten or anything and I've still got the flight numbers from how I got home. I would have got home at around midnight and I certainly didn't go to France," she told us.
According to the Mail, Brailsford and Team Sky have yet to clarify why Pooley was even brought into the equation. Cyclingnews has since contacted Brailsford directly, offering him the chance to explain. He has not responded and last week he refused to answer our questions relating to Wiggins' TUE use and Team Sky's anti-doping policies.
"I have no idea why they would have said that someone was coming to meet me. I don't know," Pooley said of a situation that looks increasingly bizarre.
"I'm the kind of person who keeps records of everything. Maybe it was an honest mistake. It's clearly quite a serious issue because it's about the perception of cycling, and anti-doping. I think you should check statements before you come out with that kind of thing. When you're being questioned about something as important as this you shouldn't just come out with guesses and if it is an honest mistake then he should be checking his facts. It doesn't matter to me, it just looks bad for them. It's at best silly and careless."
British Cycling has found itself dealing with several high profile and damaging stories over the last few months; from Simon Yates' leaked positive test due to his team doctor requesting a TUE, allegations over sexism and the resignation of Shane Sutton, Lizzie Deignan's missed three tests, and the TUE use of several riders including Bradley Wiggins.
They are now in the centre of two investigations. The first of which is still looking into the claims over sexism and the second involving UKAD's own case into potential wrong-doing. On Friday UKAD descended upon British Cycling's base in Manchester. Both British Cycling and Team Sky have said that they would cooperate with any investigation and have denied any wrongdoing.
No questions about Sutton and sexism
Pooley, who came back to cycling in order to compete on the road at the Rio Olympics added that she has yet to be contacted by the committee charged with investigating claims of sexism within British Cycling. She has competed under the British flag for several years, representing Great Britain at World Championships, Olympics and Commonwealth Games.
When asked her thoughts on the lack of communication from the investigators, Pooley said: "I'm surprised. I know some people who were contacted and they were told that British Cycling had contacted everyone in their programme over x-number of years but I wasn't contacted. I've since got in touch with the investigating panel of my own initiative."
With UKAD's separate investigation now up and running, she added: "I'd be most happy to assist UKAD in their investigation if they want my input."
On a wider scale, Pooley also answered questions on the delicate nature and climate surrounding cycling in Great Britain. Only back in August the British team were hailed for their success in Rio and a strong contingent has travelled to Doha for this week's road World Championships. However the constant allegations, the lack of clarity from several high profile figures and the rightful demand for transparency has tarnished reputations.
"I would say that the people I worked with for Rio are really good people and I had really good support. I don't spend too much time in Manchester so it's hard to get a feel for the whole organisation," Pooley said.
"I can understand [ed. scepticism] but I hope that most people would see it's more than just an argument over everyone is dirty versus everyone clean. It's upsetting to me personally because I'd be upset if people thought that I had cheated because of the current allegations but also, logically, I can see that you shouldn't take anyone at their word in sport and that's unfortunately the consequence of the history of cycling and the Lance [ed. Armstrong] thing.
"I don't think journalists should believe anyone. We have the Whereabouts system and that's why athletes should be available and happy to be tested at any time, day or night. I like it when they come and test me. I see it as a compliment. They don't test shit people and it's bloody expensive to do, so you might not be happy at being woken up at five in the morning but it's a validation of your job as an athlete.
"I try to believe in the best in people. Sometimes it's really tempting to think that someone has beaten you because they're on drugs but that's just lazy thinking and it's wrong. Not everyone is on drugs in sport and certainly not in cycling. I can understand that this is hard on the reputation of cycling and British Cycling but the allegations at the moment are just allegations and I don't think it's fair to assume that the allegations prove any wrongdoing until or if they do."
Pooley is currently putting her efforts into planning her next move in competitive sport. It's unlikely that she will return to UCI level road racing in 2017, with her passion set to other disciples, such as long distance triathlon, duathlon, and non-UCI races.
One month after her disappointing TT result in Rio she won the long-distance duathlon world championship for the third time, and she is clearly excited at the prospect of returning to try to regain her titles at the Alpe d'Huez and Embrunman triathlons.
She added: "I'd like to ride the Étape, depending on where it is next year. It's usually the kind of profile I like."
Whatever she does next it would be beneficial for all concerned if UKAD and the independent panel examining British Cycling contacted her and asked for her opinions. Just don’t ask Team Sky or Brailsford for her whereabouts.
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Daniel Benson is the Editor in Chief at both Cyclingnews.com and BikePerfect.com. Based in the UK, he has worked within cycling for almost 15 years, and he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he has reported on over a dozen editions of the Tour de France, several World Championships, the Tour Down Under, Spring Classics, and the London 2012 Olympic Games. With the help of the excellent editorial team, he runs the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.
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