Monday 26 June 2017

Anti-doping chief reveals Team Sky has 'no record of cyclists' medication'

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: UK Anti-Doping Chief Nicole Sapstead departs Portcullis House after meeting with the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on January 26, 2016 in London, England. Nicole Sapstead gave evidence in a committee session about blood doping in athletics after the recent International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) doping scandal involving Russian athletes. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 26: UK Anti-Doping Chief Nicole Sapstead departs Portcullis House after meeting with the Culture, Media and Sport Committee on January 26, 2016 in London, England. Nicole Sapstead gave evidence in a committee session about blood doping in athletics after the recent International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) doping scandal involving Russian athletes. (Photo by Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Matt Slater

UK Anti-Doping boss Nicole Sapstead has launched a scathing attack on British Cycling, Team Sky and their doctor Richard Freeman for failing to keep proper records of drugs given to riders in their care.

Appearing before the Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) select committee, Sapstead told MPs her agency has been investigating allegations of wrongdoing in British cycling since September when it received information about a package delivered to Freeman for star rider Sir Bradley Wiggins at the end of the Criterium du Dauphine race in June 2011.

She told the panel UKAD has interviewed 34 current and former riders and staff members at British Cycling and Team Sky, in an investigation that has taken up more 1,000 man hours, often at the detriment of other work.

But, in a shocking revelation, she said UKAD still does not know if the legal decongestant Fluimucil was in the package, as Freeman says, as opposed to the allegation in the original tip-off that it contained the banned corticosteroid triamcinolone, because there is no paperwork.

She said: "We are not able to confirm or refute that it contained Fluimucil. We have asked for inventories and medical records and we have not been able to ascertain that because there are no records."

When asked by the panel why Freeman cannot produce any evidence that he gave what was an unlicensed product in the UK to Wiggins, as he is obliged to do under correct medical practice, Sapstead said: "There are no records... he kept medical records on a laptop and he was meant, according to Team Sky policy, to upload those records to a dropbox that the other team doctors had access to.

"But he didn't do that, for whatever reason, and in 2014 his laptop was stolen why he was on holiday in Greece."

Sapstead said UKAD has contacted Interpol to check if this theft was reported at the time but has not received any confirmation it was, although Freeman did report it to British Cycling at the time.

Freeman was scheduled to appear before the committee as well but he pulled out on Tuesday, telling its chairman Damian Collins MP he was too ill to attend.

This left him unable to defend himself against a barrage of fresh questions raised by Sapstead's calm but withering testimony.

She described the confusion of how Freeman, who was effectively working for both British Cycling and its road racing off-shoot Team Sky, ordered and stored medicine for riders at the governing body's Manchester headquarters, with no clear separation between which drug was for which outfit.

To the MPs' incredulity, she said there is simply no record of Fluimucil being ordered by Freeman but there are invoices for Kenalog, a brand name for triamcinolone.

This is the drug that Wiggins controversially received special permission - known as a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) - to use before his three most important races in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including his 2012 Tour de France victory.

Now retired, Britain's most decorated Olympian has said he needed this drug to prevent a flare-up of pollen-related breathing problems, linked to his history of asthma.

Sapstead said she could not "confirm or deny" if Wiggins was actually given triamcinolone on the final day of the Dauphine, which would have been an anti-doping rule violation because he did not have a TUE to use it in that race, because of Freeman's missing records.

She did, however, say the British Cycling medical store held a significant amount of Kenalog that suggested it was being used by more than one rider but knowing that for sure would require access to every rider's medical files.

That, she made clear, would take a very long time as getting access to Freeman's records for Wiggins took four months, a request to the General Medical Council and the use of an independent doctor to go through Freeman's files.

Having said Freeman put up "obstacles" to obtaining this information, Sapstead told the MPs she did not think this was "malicious" but based on his belief in doctor-patient confidentiality.

She described this stance as "frustrating" but later suggested that one solution to this for future anti-doping investigations is that professional athletes waive their right to confidentiality.

That is clearly an argument for the future, as is her request for UKAD's public funding to be doubled to £10million so it can do more investigative work. For now the focus will be on British Cycling, Team Sky and Freeman.

In regard to the latter, Sapstead said UKAD had been in contact with GMC about his record-keeping, while British Cycling can expect a damning appraisal of its medical practices when her report is finished.

But the pressure surrounding Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford shows no sign of dissipating, particularly after UKAD has discovered his much-trumpeted safeguards - designed to prevent the illicit practices that have dogged cycling - can be so easily ignored.

"We haven't had an excuse from (British Cycling about why it did not have a clear policy on ordering drugs)," Sapstead said.

"Team Sky did have a policy, it's just that not everyone was adhering to it.

"It strikes me as odd, too, particularly for a road racing team set up to prove races could be won clean. I think it's strange they haven't kept records to prove that."

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