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Anorak | Bradley Wiggins didn’t cheat and he never asked to be a national treasure

Bradley Wiggins didn’t cheat and he never asked to be a national treasure

by | 5th, March 2018

What would we think of Team Sky and Sir Bradley Wiggins if they were Russian, if the Tour de France winner and gold medal Olympian was a recipient of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle the First-Called and not a knighthood? Would we roll out eyes, sneer and demand they get thee hence?

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee says Sir Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky “crossed an ethical line” by using drugs allowed under anti-doping rules to enhance performance instead of just for medical need. Our judgemental MPs are, however, “not in a position” to know the content of a jiffy bag delivered to Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine. Team Sky says the jiggy bag contained a legal decongestant. But in the world of big-money sport, wherein vast sums are invested in shaving milliseconds off times and to give your athlete a ‘competitive’ advantage – lighter, stronger bikes; better fabrics; the most energy efficient nutrients; and the drugs – the proof was lacking and the MPs says there is “no “reliable evidence” to back up Team Sky’s claim.

“Drugs were being used by Team Sky, within World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) rules, to enhance the performance of riders and not just to treat medical need,” the DCMS committee report adds. Team Sky “strongly refutes” the “serious claim that medication has been used by the team to enhance performance”. Wiggins has also responded. “I find it so sad that accusations can be made, where people can be accused of things they have never done, which are then regarded as facts. I strongly refute the claim that any drug was used without medical need.”

Oh, and there’s more:

The long-awaited report, entitled “Combatting Doping in Sport”, also states Lord Coe, the president of athletics’ world governing body the IAAF, gave “misleading answers” in evidence about his knowledge of doping allegations in Russian athletics, before they were made in a German television documentary in 2014.

The DCMS committee was also “shocked” that British four-time Olympic champion athlete Sir Mo Farah received an injection of the legal supplement L-carnitine before the 2014 London Marathon that was not recorded on Farah’s medical records.

It’s what we don’t know that nags and pervades UK sport with a stink.

What was in that jiffy bag?

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman received a ‘mystery package’ for Wiggins on 12 June 2011 – the final day of the Criterium du Dauphine in France, an event Wiggins won.

At the request of Freeman, Sutton arranged for then British Cycling coach Simon Cope to bring the package – he claims left for him in a sealed ‘jiffy-bag’ – out to La Toussuire for the end of the race.

Both Cope and Sutton deny knowing what was in the package, although Sutton told the committee he believes Freeman did administer the substance in it to Wiggins after the race, adding that Freeman had told him: “Brad’s been sorted.”

Ukad started an investigation into the contents of the package in September 2016, following an allegation, also seen by the DCMS committee, that it contained triamcinolone,

As the DCMS report notes, if Wiggins was given triamcinolone on 12 June 2011 without a TUE, it would constitute an anti-doping rule violation. Get caught misbehaving and you’re in line for a possible two-year ban and the loss of results. Wiggins won the Tour. In 2012 he won Olympic gold. But so what? “If” is not proof.

But there are records, right? There’s data on everything a top athlete does. So there are records of what was in the bag? After all, this is big money we’re talking about, to say nothing of athletes’ reputations. Er, no. Team Sky can’t produce the medical records. Say the MPs: “Such failure was unprofessional and inexcusable, and that failure is responsible for the damaging cloud of doubt which continues to hang over this matter.”

That there’s any doubt is shameful. It’s not like Team Sky had no warning.

Twelve years before, two months before the start of the 1999 Tour de France, US Postal team director Johan Bruyneel asked one of the team’s soigneurs, Emma O’Reilly, to travel from the south of France to Piles in Spain to pick up a medical product and take it to France before handing it on to Lance ­Armstrong.

O’Reilly never knew what the pills were but was sure they were not paracetamol. She met Armstrong in the car park of a McDonald’s restaurant outside Nice and handed over the drugs.

Lance Armstrong turned out to be a monumental cheat.

Team Says responds: “We take full responsibility for mistakes that were made. We wrote to the committee in March 2017 setting out in detail the steps we took in subsequent years to put them right, including, for example, the strengthening of our medical record keeping.”

Pad. Pen. Computers, Mobiles. Crayon. Paper. Photo copiers. Tablets. Faxes. Cameras. Memory sticks. Had only – had only – Team Sky kept some more records. But you live and you learn, eh.

The BBC:

In a letter revealed by the BBC in January, Ukad claimed its investigation had been “hindered” and may have even been “potentially compromised” by British Cycling’s failure to report doping allegations sooner.

The body criticised the “lack of accurate medical records” held by British Cycling. Freeman kept Wiggins’ medical records on a laptop that was stolen while he was on holiday in Greece in 2014, and no back-up copy was made.

Dang! Those foreign swine! But as the Greek police get on the case – those bungling clots have found nothing – we learn that Freeman” submitted written evidence for the report but was too unwell to appear at a DCMS hearing, before resigning from British Cycling in October because of ill health”. Let’s hope his own doctor keeps proper records and backs them up.

 

Winner of Sports Personality of the Year 2012, Bradley Wiggins accepts his award onstage from The Duchess of Cambridge during the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards 2012 at ExCeL Arena, London.

 

The upshot is that Wiggins, a supremely talented athlete possessed of incredible drive to succeed, is mired. He didn’t cheat. He didn’t ask to be knighted and feted by the great and good, turned from athlete to national treasure and a force for moral right. There’s a big stripe of subjectivity running through the story of drugs and Team Sky. Sport is all about rules. You find the limits by pushing. We’ve yet to see any proof that Team Sky broke them. But we have seen how the State latches on to sporting success. And we should wonder why.

As for what was suspected, David Walsh gave his Sunday Times readers the side-eye in September 2016. Walsh has been an invaluable source of news on competitive road cycling and Team Sky. So when he writes, we listen:

With the benefit of hindsight, there is irony in Wiggins expressing fears about other teams using needles when he was interviewed before the 2011 Tour. The day before he had received a 40mg injection of the corticosteroid triamcinolone acetonide. Freeman had made the application and supported it with testimony from ENT (ear, nose and throat) consultant Simon Hargreaves. Wiggins did suffer from asthma and had received three TUEs in 2009 that allowed him to inhale salbutamol and two other drugs. Inhalation of these drugs is not performance-enhancing and they can now be used without a TUE. A 40mg injection of triamcinolone is very different and though some experts claim it is not performance-enhancing, the experts by experience (bike riders who have abused it for decades) argue the opposite.

Twelve months later, four days before the start of the 2012 Tour de France, Wiggins received the same injection, 40mg of triamcinolone. Again it was Freeman who applied for the TUE, and UCI’s Mario ­Zorzoli’s name on the approval slip. Ten months later, 12 days before the start of the 2013 Giro d’Italia, another application for triamcinolone was granted.

A year later Wiggins won the 2014 Tour of California as his road racing career began to wind down. That victory came during California’s “hay fever season” but now there was no longer a need for a TUE.

But let’s not just look at cycling. British sport is reeling:

And to UK Athletics, whose former chief medical officer Dr Rob Chakraverty – now the Football Association’s chief doctor for the senior men’s England football team – the MPs want investigated by the General Medical Council (GMC), after being “shocked” he gave an injection of L-carnitine to athlete Sir Mo Farah without recording the dose on medical records.

The upshot is that British sport is a professional industry. Athletes, clubs, coaches and owners seek advantage where they can. It might not be in the Corinthian spirit to take drugs, but we do so love a winner.



Posted: 5th, March 2018 | In: Key Posts, News Comment | TrackBack | Permalink