A new report issued by the UK government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has made fresh criticism of Team Sky over doping allegations concerning the UCI WorldTour cycling outfit, while it has also accused International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) president Sebastian Coe of making misleading statements concerning doping in athletics.
The report from the DCMS select committee issued today (Monday) specifically concerns Team Sky’s 2012 Tour de France campaign, when Sir Bradley Wiggins and the team are said to have “crossed an ethical line” by using drugs allowed under anti-doping guidelines to enhance performance rather than for medical needs.
Wiggins (pictured) rode to a famous victory at the 2012 Tour and both he and Team Sky have continuously denied any illicit use of drugs. The new DCMS report suggests that Team Sky flouted the anti-doping system to allow Wiggins, and potentially support riders, to take powerful corticosteroids to prepare them for the Tour de France. It also states that team manager Sir Dave Brailsford must take responsibility for abandoning the outfit’s motto of “winning clean” in pursuit of success.
The DCMS also said that while it is “not in a position” to confirm what was in the notorious ‘jiffy bag’ at the centre of the probe into alleged infractions of anti-doping rules, it added that there was no “reliable evidence” to support Team Sky’s claim the medical package delivered to Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine event contained a legal decongestant, fluimucil.
However, the report states that Team Sky flouted the therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) system, which allows for the use of a banned substance to treat a legitimate medical condition. The report read: “From the evidence that has been received by the committee, we believe that this powerful corticosteroid (triamcinolone) was being used to prepare Bradley Wiggins, and possibly other riders supporting him, for the Tour de France.
“The purpose of this was not to treat medical need, but to improve his power-to-weight ratio ahead of the race. The application for the TUE for the triamcinolone for Bradley Wiggins, ahead of the 2012 Tour de France, also meant that he benefited from the performance-enhancing properties of this drug during the race.
“This does not constitute a violation of the World Anti-Doping Agency code, but it does cross the ethical line that David Brailsford says he himself drew for Team Sky. In this case, and contrary to the testimony of David Brailsford in front of the committee, we believe that drugs were being used by Team Sky, within the Wada (World Anti-Doping Agency) rules, to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need.”
Responding to the report, Team Sky said in a statement: Team Sky said: “The report details again areas in the past where we have already acknowledged that the Team fell short. 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.
“However, the report also makes the serious claim that medication has been used by the team to enhance performance. We strongly refute this. The report also includes an allegation of widespread triamcinolone use by Team Sky riders ahead of the 2012 Tour de France. Again, we strongly refute this allegation. We are surprised and disappointed that the committee has chosen to present an anonymous and potentially malicious claim in this way, without presenting any evidence or giving us an opportunity to respond. This is unfair both to the team and to the riders in question.”
Wiggins added: “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. I hope to have my say in the next few days and put my side across.”
The wide-ranging report also tackled the issue of doping in athletics and the governance scandal that hit the IAAF. Coe appeared before the DCMS committee in December 2015, shortly after he replaced the now disgraced Lamine Diack as IAAF president.
Coe previously served as vice-president of the IAAF, and the DCMS suggests he could have acted sooner to help clean up athletics, criticising him for the nature of his responses to questions over how much he knew about the problem before it was exposed by the media.
The scandal came to light in December 2014, but Dave Bedford, a former London Marathon director, is alleged to have contacted Coe in August 2014 to tell him about Russian marathon runner Liliya Shobukhova being extorted to have a positive doping test covered up by IAAF officials so she could compete in the 2012 Olympic Games.
“(Coe’s) answers to us about this were misleading,” the committee report said. “Lord Coe may not have read the email and attachments sent to him by David Bedford, whose actions we commend, but it stretches credibility to believe that he was not aware, at least in general terms, of the main allegations that the ethics commission had been asked to investigate.
“It is certainly disappointing that Lord Coe did not take the opportunity, given to him by David Bedford, to make sure he was fully informed of the serious issues at stake in the Shobukhova case and their wider implications for the governance of the anti-doping rules at the IAAF.”
The committee said these are “matters of the greatest seriousness and affect the reputation of both the IAAF and Lord Coe.”
The Associated Press news agency reported that the IAAF said it would write to the select committee “to explain some of the more complex aspects of anti-doping that have been misunderstood, and will seek to have all of the documents that the IAAF provided to the Committee placed on the DCMS website, as some of it appears to be missing.”