Wiggins case adds to concerns over TUEs, says cycling’s governing body

Martha Kelner
The Guardian
<span class="element-image__caption">Sir Bradley Wiggins insisted he took triamcinolone to treat asthma.</span> <span class="element-image__credit">Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images</span>
Sir Bradley Wiggins insisted he took triamcinolone to treat asthma. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Cycling’s world governing body said the fallout from the Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky affair has reinforced its concerns about potential abuse of the anti-doping system. The UCI said the damning findings of a parliamentary inquiry would be raised in a meeting with the World Anti-Doping Agency.

The explosive report by the digital, culture, media and sport select committee concluded that Wiggins had taken performance-enhancing drugs to win the 2012 Tour de France under the guise of treating a legitimate medical condition. It said Team Sky had “crossed ethical lines” by obtaining therapeutic use exemption forms, in effect a doctor’s note, to take triamcinolone, a powerful corticosteroid which would usually be banned. A UCI statement read: “The conclusions in the report [insofar as cycling is concerned] support and reinforce the UCI’s concerns about the potential abuse of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), in particular with respect to corticosteroids. As noted by the DCMS, these concerns were first raised in the Cycling Independent Reform Commission’s report in 2015 and appear to remain an issue today.

“As far as TUEs are concerned, the UCI reinforced its rules in 2014 to ensure that the UCI TUE Committee is composed of multiple independent experts in the fields of clinical, sports and exercise medicine and that a TUE can only be granted if there is unanimity amongst the three members of the TUE Committee Panel. Having said that, the UCI fully supports the DCMS’s conclusion that ‘the TUE system needs to be kept under permanent review’ and the UCI will continue to consider possible improvements that could be made to its TUE system.”

Wiggins said his existence had become a “living hell” since a UK Anti-Doping Agency investigation was launched into a mystery jiffy bag delivered to him at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011. Team Sky have maintained the package contained the legal decongestant Fluimucil and not triamcinolone, as was alleged. The investigation was closed last year after Ukad deemed it “impossible” to conclude what was in the bag because of insufficient medical records. Leading doctors have raised concerns about whether such a powerful drug as triamcinolone is required to treat asthma but Wiggins insisted he gained no competitive advantage. The 37-year-old also defended his decision to use it before three of cycling’s Grand Tours, including his 2012 Tour de France victory. “The grass pollen goes in seasons,” he said. “This particular strain of grass pollen I was allergic to, it was at a heightened period during June and July. I answered these questions before: ‘Why didn’t you take it in 2016?’

“Because I was racing indoor, I didn’t have these problems. These problems flared up riding through fields and we are riding for three weeks at a time through France, it was the biggest race of the year. I had won everything that season, I wasn’t going to jeopardise the work we had put in at that stage.”

The digital, culture, media and sport select committee report also notes an allegation from an anonymous witness that Wiggins may have been treated with triamcinolone up to nine times over four years, despite the former professional cyclist David Millar insisting it was “a once-a-year drug due to the stress it puts on your body”. But Wiggins claimed this allegation is part of a smear campaign against him.

“That’s completely malicious,” he said. “I would like to see some evidence to back that up. It’s in one paragraph in the report and then never mentioned again. Also, if this was the case, why hasn’t this piece of evidence come to light under the legal investigation with Ukad? This is the first time it has come to light. It seems very odd it has come to light in this parliamentary hearing and not before now.”

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