The Chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of British Parliament has told Cyclingnews that unless a paper trail is provided that proves a medical package administered to Bradley Wiggins at the Dauphine in 2011 contained Fluimucil, then Team Sky will have serious questions to face over both their ethics and their claim to be the 'cleanest team in cycling'.
Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Committee looking into doping in sport, has told Cyclingnews that, "if it's not possible to determine absolutely what it was [ed. the package] then that raises concerns about the way in which the ethics, the actual doping laws are enforced.
"I think people's faith will be challenged if there's no records," Collins said. "For what comes out of this whole affair is how do you know you're running the cleanest team in cycling if you don't have records to show what the doctors are giving the cyclists? That's not about whether the rules have been broken. They themselves set the standard, so to do that, you need to keep a close eye on what's going on. Even though admittedly over an event that took place a few years ago, but involving their lead rider, if they don't have those records, then that would be a concern."
The Committee has so far called several witnesses, including Dave Brailsford, Shane Sutton and British Cycling head Bob Howden. Last week Nicole Cooke gave evidence, and on Monday Collins confirmed that Dr Freeman, the head of UK Anti-Doping and Simon Cope have all been asked to appear on February 22. However, British Cycling have not been able to provide a paper trail to back up the claim that the contents - which came from their medical store in Manchester – were indeed Fluimucil.
At present the only individual to state that the package contained the decongestant is Dave Brailsford, who told the committee in December that the information came to him via Dr Freeman. However, Brailsford's role in the story, which has lead to UKAD launching a full investigation into potential wrongdoing between Team Sky and British Cycling, has been muddled at best.
When asked if Brailsford's position had become untenable in light of the ongoing investigation, Collins would not be drawn on the risk surrounding the Team Sky boss's reputation specifically, but was clear in his view that it will be crucial for Sky to demonstrate that they kept appropriate records of all medication administered.
Cope, who dovetailed work for both British Cycling and Team Sky in 2011, when the delivery of the package was made, told Cyclingnews that he would appear at the inquiry, but he has stressed several times that he transported the package without any knowledge of its content.
Dr Richard Freeman, who has worked with both Team Sky and British Cycling – and who ordered and treated Bradley Wiggins with the medical contents of the 'Jiffy bag' – has yet to announce if he will attend the hearing. He has remained silent ever since the story of the package first surfaced in a Daily Mail story, but has remained an active member of the British Cycling medical team in the last few months.
"He's the man who requested the package and he's the man who received it," Collins said when asked why Freeman had been called to give evidence next month. "It will be interesting to understand from him the processes for prescribing medicine, issuing it and the records that are normally kept."
So far British Cycling have only been able to provide evidence of Simon Cope's expenses in relation to his trip to the Dauphine. They and Team Sky have, according the their own accounts, handed all their other evidence to UKAD, but the anti-doping body has yet to ascertain proof that the package contained Fluimucil.
- Cope: I don't know what was in the package for Team Sky
- Simon Cope to speak to UK Anti-Doping as investigation continues
- UKAD investigation rolls on as Brailsford's parliamentary questioning looms
- Timeline of UKAD investigation into Team Sky and British Cycling
- Brailsford dodges questions about UKAD investigation at Team Sky's Mallorca camp
- Cope: Select committee? I am meant to be at a Wiggins camp
For Colllins and the rest of the Committee, the questions surrounding Cope involve both logistics and logic. For instance, why hand-deliver a medication across the Channel at considerable cost when it is readily available at any pharmacy in France? Also, why, if Wiggins was sick, did Team Sky wait several days to transport the drug to France before treating him almost immediately upon the finish of the last stage of the race, when Cope arrived?
"With the whole scenario, what's strange is that there don't appear to have been readily available records that can clear the whole thing up," Collins reiterated. "If what was in the jiffy bag was Fluimucil and Sky had records, then that could have been cleared up at the time. We're talking about the transportation of medicine where there's no restrictions on its use, in or out of competition, and it was a relatively harmless thing for someone to deliver. Then why wasn't it explained at the time? That's why people are so interested in this story… because it's been so difficult for anyone to explain what’s actually happened.
"Also, if you look at the chronology of Simon Cope's travel before going out there, he goes to Manchester on the 8th of June and flies to Geneva on the 12th. So when did he get the call asking him to bring the package out? Did he make a special trip to Manchester to pick it up? Which makes the whole thing even more extraordinary. Then he's not coming out for several days. So if there's concern early in the race that Bradley has a [ed. health] condition, then rather than buying it in France that day, they've decided to have someone bring it out from Manchester, knowing that person won't be there for another three days. If it was needed so urgently that it was administered as soon as it arrived then it seems odd that they would have waited so long for it."
Brailsford under siege
At the recent Team Sky training camp, Brailsford attempted to play down the story. He has admitted to making mistakes in his handling of the case. At one point he claimed that Cope was travelling to meet British rider Emma Pooley instead of delivering medical goods to Team Sky – a point disproved by the Daily Mail, which found out that Pooley was in Spain and nowhere near the Dauphine at the time. The paper also claimed that Brailsford tried to kill the story by offering the paper's Matt Lawton a 'more positive story'.
Collins indicated that at this stage Brailsford would be unlikely to face further questions from the Select Committee, but he stressed again that UKAD's investigation needed to unearth a paper trail.
"Dave Brailsford was at pains to remind the committee as well, that he had been told the contents by Dr Freeman. If the results of the UKAD investigation are inconclusive, then I think it does pose very difficult questions for Team Sky in terms of how they keep records and checks on medication. Nicole Cooke said that in her experience she found it hard to believe that the coaches in the team wouldn't have absolute record and knowledge of everything that's prescribed and what that medication is used for.
"I know that Brailsford has so far said that no one has done anything wrong and that they're fully collaborating with UKAD. He's not gone into any detail yet as to what he has given them, but I think if at that point the outcome of the investigation is inconclusive, then they would have to explain their position and why it couldn't be proven as to what was in the bag."
Collins also raised Team Sky's values surrounding transparency and their efforts to portray themselves as a clean team. The Committee are not investigating whether an anti-doping violation has occurred - at present one hasn't – but the lack of evidence supplied so far appears to be Collins' greatest concern.
"There doesn't appear to be any document to back it up. If that's the case then [ed. Team Sky] says that if we're a team that operates with a very high ethical stance, higher than anyone else, then you'd imagine that there would be a really robust medical procedure for what would be prescribed, why they are needed, that records are kept and how and when they are used. Then if an issue like this arose it would be really easy to turn around and say 'this is what it was. This is why it was administered and it was part of a plan'. At the moment that appears to be lacking.
"If we're in a position where the team aren't effectively able to check what the doctor was prescribing and giving to the riders because it's not discussed with the team, and there's no records, that would be quite a concerning matter about how the team polices its own ethical guidelines on the use of medicine and drugs."