I've done nothing wrong. I can look myself in the mirror - Brailsford
Dave Brailsford claimed yesterday that he did not know about the reputation of the drug triamcinolone, or its association with doping in cycling, when it was prescribed to Bradley Wiggins on three occasions in 2011, 2012, and 2013.
Breaking his silence on the furore which has engulfed Team Sky and its most celebrated former rider following the leaking of Wiggins's medical data by Russian hackers Fancy Bears, Brailsford launched an impassioned defence of his team's anti-doping record and integrity, insisting Wiggins's therapeutic use exemptions for the powerful corticosteroid were "medically appropriate".
Sitting in Team Sky's cramped offices deep in the bowels of the Manchester velodrome, Brailsford recalled sitting in another confined space over 12 years ago as he sought to explain why he would always "go up to that line" but never cross it.
"I've been in a prison cell with Dave Millar (the retired pro who was arrested in 2004 on doping charges), in Biarritz, which was a harrowing experience," he said. "I've sat in prison, on my own, out of my wits with fear, being told I was complicit in (Millar's) cheating."
He added: "One of the reasons I do this is because I don't want to see the likes of David Millar do what he did. I want to see young British athletes go to a team where they are never going to get asked to dope, they are never going to get pressurised to dope. They are never going to have somebody say, 'Go and have a word with Dave B' and I go, 'Right son, the time has come to get you on the program'. That is nevergoing to happen.
"I've done nothing wrong. I can look at myself in the mirror, because I've never had a discussion with anyone about doping and I never will. And I'm going to keep on fighting to make sure people believe that."
Whether Team Sky can recover from this crisis remains to be seen. Even Brailsford's biggest supporters will struggle with the idea that he did not know of the connotations attached to triamcinolone.
Millar and other former dopers, such as Michael Rasmussen and Jorg Jaksche have testified in recent days to the drug's performance-enhancing benefits. And one of Team Sky's doctors at the time, the now banned Geert Leinders, even worked with Rasmussen at Rabobank.
Brailsford insisted yesterday that Leinders had "no involvement whatsoever" in Wiggins' TUE applications, although he was vague on who exactly was in the loop beyond himself and team doctor Richard Freeman. He added that he could "only trust in" the diagnosis made by Simon Hargreaves, the independent ear, nose and throat specialist, who recommended an intramuscular dose of triamcinolone, and in the fact that the UCI doctor Mario Zorzoli signed off on it.
Brailsford said he did not know then of triamcinolone's reputation.
"At that point in time, no, I wouldn't say I did," he said. "For me, the abuse in our sport was more around the more renowned (banned blood booster) EPO, blood transfusions … "
Brailsford completely rejected the notion that Wiggins's 2012 Tour win should now come with an asterisk denoting that he received a corticosteroid injection four days before it began.
"No, I don't think it is fair comment," Brailsford said. "Who knows about the rest of the field? Who knows what other competitors may have had? Everyone is focused on Bradley. Everyone is focused on one incident. But this is a broader issue." (© Daily Telegraph, London)