Team Sky crossed an “ethical line” by using permitted medication to enhance the performance of Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins, a parliamentary committee report published on Monday has revealed.
Team Sky immediately issued a statement to “strongly refute” the claim, with Bradley Wiggins writing on Twitter that he strongly denied “that any drug was used without medical need”.
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 & put my side across.
— Brad Wiggins (@SirWiggo) March 5, 2018
The long-awaited Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee report on combatting doping in sport said the widespread therapeutic use exemption (TUE) system was open to abuse.
Following the publication of the report, Damian Collins, the chair of the DCMS, said a key recommendation is criminalising the supply of banned drugs, which would serve has a highly effective deterrent to would-be dopers.
“It would add more rigour to the system. There would be more responsibility on the part of doctors and teams to keep proper medical records, and there would be more surveillance of that,” he added.
The DCMS report was unable to confirm what was in the mysterious package delivered to Wiggins at the June 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race, but found no “reliable evidence” to support Sky’s assertion that it was a legal decongestant.
The committee said it believed a powerful corticosteroid called 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.”
Wiggins, an asthma sufferer who has said he sought no unfair advantage, had been granted a TUE for the banned anti-inflammatory drug ahead of the 2012 Tour.
The report said that while there was no violation of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code,“it does cross the ethical line that [team principal] David Brailsford says he himself drew for Team Sky.”
When asked by the BBC about how something could be “unethical, but not illegal”, Collins said one of the committee’s recommendations is to remove this “grey area”.
“[With] drugs like [triamcinolone] that are known to have powerful side effects that enhance performance, athletes should not be allowed to take them and compete at the same time. If they’re that sick and they need it, then fair enough, but they should not be able to compete while the benefits of this drugs are still in their system,” he said.
David Millar, the former British pro-cyclist, who served a two-year ban from cycling between 2004 and 2006 for doping, told the DCMS that the exemption system, “is open to abuse”.
He said: “Some of the medical conditions used to justify a TUE can be difficult to validate; and as I discovered, an unscrupulous rider and doctor could exaggerate or simply make up symptoms that would merit a prescription and exemption.”
Speaking on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, former Olympic athlete Roger Black urged Wiggins to “prove his innocence” and said there was “so many grey areas in sport”.
“There’s something wrong here. These questions have to be answered [...] The questions have been asked, but they haven’t been answered,” he said.
The report also accused Sky and British Cycling of “serious, unprofessional and inexcusable” behavior in failing to keep proper medical records.
The DCMS report notes that Wiggins’ medical records were kept on a laptop that was stolen in Greece in 2014 and that despite Sky’s policy to upload all records to a cloud server, this was never done or checked.
Team Sky said they took full responsibility for mistakes. “However, the report also makes the serious claim that medication has been used by the Team to enhance performance. We strongly refute this,” a statement said.
Sky said they were surprised and disappointed that the committee had “chosen to present an anonymous and potentially malicious claim in this way, without presenting any evidence or giving us an opportunity to respond.”
Sebastian Coe, president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, was also strongly criticised in the report for providing “misleading” answers in a 2015 hearing about what he knew about doping in Russian athletics before he took office.
“It stretches credibility to believe that [Coe] was not aware, at least in general terms, of the main allegations that the Ethics Commission had been asked to investigate,” the report added.
Coe, a double Olympic 1,500 meters gold medalist, denied last year that he had misled the committee.
The committee recommended that UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) should have greater powers and resources to conduct investigations and enforce rules.