Wiggins' former doctor likens Fluimucil story to the Armstrong days

Bradley Wiggins' former doctor at Garmin Slipstream has told Cyclingnews that in his opinion, the story provided by Team Sky at the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in relation to the transport of Fluimucil for the rider's medical needs is 'insufficient', implausible and like something from the Lance Armstrong era.

Team Sky, British Cycling and Bradley Wiggins have all come under fire in recent months due to a medical package that was transported from British Cycling's offices in Manchester to Team Sky at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011. The episode is part of a UKAD investigation into potential wrongdoing and has led to members of the British Parliament quizzing British Cycling and Team Sky's Dave Brailsford over the matter.

On Monday, after months of silence, Brailsford told the parliamentary committee that the medical package contained Fluimucil, a legal mucolytic that can help break up mucus in the lungs. No evidence has yet been provided to back this claim up, although British Cycling have told the committee that the required documentation will be provided by the end of this week.

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Prentice Steffen, who was Wiggins' team doctor during the 2009 season, when the British rider took fourth at the Tour de France, confirmed that Fluimucil is a standard drug that is made available within the peloton. However, he questioned the explanation offered by Brailsford, who stated that the package was transported from Manchester to the French Alps by Simon Cope, an employee of British Cycling. Shane Sutton, who resigned from British Cycling in the wake of an investigation into using sexist language – for which he was subsequently cleared – remains as a consultant at Team Sky, and told the committee that the medical package was used at the Dauphiné with the drug administered to Wiggins by Sky's team doctor, Richard Freeman.

"It just struck me as a bit of an odd hand to play and an insufficient explanation," Steffen told Cyclingnews.

"We pretty much keep Fluimucil on hand at all times because the guys ask for it. Certainly it's legal and it's probably effective in terms of its effect on clearing mucous and also providing an antioxidant effect. We can give it out pretty freely on cold or rainy days if riders feel like they are getting a cold."

Steffen's central point is that if the drug was needed why did Team Sky request the substance from the UK instead of simply seeking out a local pharmacy. Fluimucil is available over the counter in most European countries but not in the United Kingdom. Simon Cope, told Cyclingnews back in October that he had no idea what was in the package, stating that it could have been pedals. He also said that he brought over items of clothes.

"When I run out, which does occur on occasion I just go to the nearest pharmacy because it's pretty easy to get over the counter," Steffen, who has worked in professional cycling since the 1990s, told Cyclingnews.

"Brailsford did say, and it's true that people do come in and out of races, and you can take advantage of that to say 'bring some of this or take that' but I thought about that as a semi-plausible explanation too. But when a race happens the bubble forms around the staff and riders the day before and then it breaks up after the last stage. There's not that much coming and going, if any, during the race. So maybe that's not an entirely plausible explanation."

Steffen, who is set to take a sabbatical from the sport likened the explanation offered by Team Sky to the Lance Armstrong days. Team Sky have not broken any anti-doping rules, however like Armstrong, they have faced a severe backlash due to the nature of the story and their handling of the situation – a matter Brailsford himself has admitted mishandling. On Monday the Daily Mail claimed that Brailsford had offered them an incentive not to run the original story relating to the package.

"It sort of reminds me of the Lance days, when they would come out with a story that the believers would believe and everyone else wouldn't think twice about except for a handful of people and they would say, 'hey that really doesn't make sense,'" Steffen said.

"If it was just Fluimucil then they could and should have said that from the outset rather than come up with the explanation weeks later. It just adds to the implausibility of it but I have no idea what could be in the package, it could be a love letter from his wife. Who knows?"

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Daniel Benson

Daniel Benson was the Editor in Chief at Cyclingnews.com between 2008 and 2022. Based in the UK, he joined the Cyclingnews team in 2008 as the site's first UK-based Managing Editor. In that time, he 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 ran the coverage on Cyclingnews and has interviewed leading figures in the sport including UCI Presidents and Tour de France winners.