Cycling: ‘Mystery package’ doctor admits Team Sky had no medicines policy

Sean Ingle
The Guardian
‘Mystery package’ doctor admits Team Sky had no medicines policy
‘Mystery package’ doctor admits Team Sky had no medicines policy

The doctor at the centre of the affair of the mystery package delivered to Sir Bradley Wiggins during the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011 has made the astonishing admission that neither Team Sky nor British Cycling had any written medicines-management policy or stock-taking system at the time.

In a letter to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport select committee Dr Richard Freeman also expressed “regret” that there had been no backed-up medical records of Wiggins’ treatment in 2011 – but denied there had been any unethical behaviour by either Team Sky or British Cycling. However, Damian Collins, the chair of the DCMS select committee, said that Freeman’s written evidence had left “major questions outstanding for Team Sky and British Cycling”.

He added: “In particular, why were no back-up medical records kept for Bradley Wiggins in 2011, beyond those on Dr Freeman’s laptop computer? Why were there not more formal protocols enforced on record-keeping? And whose responsibility was it to make sure that Team Sky’s own stated policies were being enforced?”

Freeman was unable to attend the select committee hearing in person this month due to ill health but promised to provide written answers to what he knew about the package delivered by the British Cycling assistant Simon Cope to Wiggins on the final day of the Dauphiné in 2011.

But his nine-page letter in response to Collins’ written questions will raise huge concerns over why there was not proper stock-keeping at Team Sky and British Cycling – especially given that some of the drugs kept in the storeroom at the Manchester velodrome, such as triamcinolone, would have needed a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE).

Freeman wrote: “In 2011 neither team had a written medicines-management policy or stock-taking system. This was not uncommon practice in sports teams at that time. In early 2012 Dr Steve Peters and I introduced a basic stock-control review of the medicines ordered for British Cycling. This has evolved into a written medicine-management policy.”

Freeman said that instead of keeping stock of what medicines were being used, British Cycling and Team Sky doctors dispensed them to individual patients and the process was recorded in their medical records. “This included not just the name of the medicine but the dose recommendations, the amount and the batch number, to minimise the risk of medicines containing prohibited substances being acquired by a rider,” he explained.

But he admitted there was a major flaw. “I accept that it would have been desirable to have backed up my clinical records, whatever system was used,” he added. “I regret not doing this.”

Freeman blamed his lack of record taking on the fact that “travelling with a team is a very different environment from sitting in a GP surgery” and that he had no clerical assistance. He also admitted that he had struggled to use the Dropbox system that he had helped bring in.

In his letter he also appears to contradict evidence given to Parliament by Cope this month. Cope agreed that he had a train receipt that showed he had travelled to Manchester on 8 June and that he had collected a package while there before travelling down to London and flying to Geneva airport.

However, Freeman says that his request for the legal decongestant Fluimucil was “made to Shane Sutton a day or two before the end of the Dauphiné 2011” – in other words 10 or 11 June.

Freeman also told the select committee that the experience of the Scottish skier Alain Baxter, who had lost out on an Olympic medal because he had taken Vick containing a banned substance, had made them wary of buying medicines over the counter. “It was very important to be sure that any medicines sent to the team on tour were appropriate and from a reliable source,” he wrote.

“During the Dauphine in June 2011, we were running low on Fluimucil. My first thought was of the supply I had in Manchester, and that the team would be able to access that supply quickly. It did not occur to me to travel to Switzerland. Only Fluimucil was contained in the package sent.”

Freeman also insisted he had once administered triamcinolone to a rider at Team Sky and British Cycling and was “aware of only a handful of riders in either team being referred to hospital for image-guided triamcinolone injection for clinical need, with none needing a TUE”.

He added: “My practice has never been compromised by coaches or management ever at Team Sky or British Cycling. I am not, and have not been, concerned that the TUE process is abused by athletes, in relation to my clinical experience and practice.”

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