Friday 23 August 2019

Sky boss Dave Brailsford to be asked 'some extremely important questions' about mystery package in doping probe

Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford

Matt Slater

British Sports minister Tracey Crouch has said Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford will be asked "some extremely important questions" about a mystery package that is the subject of a UK Anti-Doping investigation when he is quizzed by MPs on Monday.

Brailsford is one of six witnesses appearing before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee in Westminster on Monday as part of its long-running inquiry into sport's fight against doping.

The committee will ask Brailsford about star rider Sir Bradley Wiggins' therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) - which are essentially doctor's notes to allow athletes to use medicine that would otherwise be banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency - and the package which was delivered to Team Sky by a British Cycling employee at the end of a key pre-Tour de France race in 2011.

Leaked WADA documents revealed in September that Wiggins was granted TUEs to use the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone before his three biggest races in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including his famous 2012 Tour de France victory.

And in October, the Daily Mail reported a claim that a "Jiffy bag" containing triamcinolone was delivered to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman, who now works for British Cycling, by the then-GB women's team manager and academy coach Simon Cope at the final stage of the 2011 Dauphine Libere.

Shortly after this allegation was reported, UKAD announced it was investigating alleged "wrongdoing" at Team Sky and cycling's national governing body, with its investigators visiting the pair's headquarters in Manchester, taking documents and interviewing all relevant witnesses.

Brailsford, British Cycling, Cope, Freeman and Wiggins have strongly denied breaking any anti-doping rules but nobody has revealed the contents of the package, despite Brailsford and British Cycling saying it was not triamcinolone, which Wiggins would not have been allowed to take at that time.

Speaking to BBC 5 Live's Sportsweek programme on Sunday morning, Crouch said she would be following the committee hearing with "great interest" as she believes "it is really important all sports are completely transparent" about their anti-doping practices to ensure fans can have faith in sport.

"If we want to continue to be successful in cycling, and to encourage more people to participate in cycling, it is important that (the witnesses) are transparent in the answers they give," said Crouch.

When asked if Brailsford should simply tell the MPs what was in the package, Crouch said that was "up to him" and it would be wrong of her "to prejudge" the UKAD investigation.

But the minister added: "(Brailsford) will be asked some extremely important questions and he will have to justify himself and his actions, and it's not for me as sports minister to say otherwise."

Monday's hearing, which can be watched live on the UK Parliament website, will be broken up into two sessions.

The first, which starts at 11.15am, will feature British Cycling president Bob Howden, the chair of the governing body's ethics commission Dr George Gilbert, former British Cycling technical director and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton and Brailsford.

Howden and Gilbert will appear together and are likely to be asked about the circumstances in which TUEs are applied for and granted within the GB set-up, and British Cycling's wider anti-doping work, particularly with reference to amateur cycling.

Sutton, who coached Wiggins throughout much of the rider's career and has intimate knowledge of the relationship between British Cycling and Team Sky, is scheduled to appear at noon, with Brailsford due at 12.30pm.

The second session, which starts at 3pm, will feature WADA president Sir Craig Reedie and the Montreal-based agency's director general Olivier Niggli and will be a more general discussion about the current issues in anti-doping.

In a statement, the committee's chairman Damian Collins MP said: "It is important that sports follow the letter and spirit of the anti-doping code.

"We want to understand more about the ethics of the use of TUEs and the way Team Sky and British Cycling police the anti-doping rules.

"We will also be questioning Sir Craig Reedie about the resources available to WADA to monitor doping abuse around the world, and in particular in sports like cycling and athletics.

"We are keen to understand more from WADA about its investigation into doping in Russia, the involvement and support of the Russian government for this, the progress he feels Russia still needs to make, and the role of international sporting organisations like the International Olympic Committee, the IAAF and the UCI, in promoting and safeguarding clean sport."

The panel of 11 MPs has been looking closely at this topic since 2015 when the Sunday Times published a series of articles on allegations of widespread doping in athletics and the failure of the relevant authorities to deal with it.

Monday's hearing follows earlier sessions with Lord Coe, the president of athletics' world governing body the IAAF, and UKAD chairman David Kenworthy, to name just two, that were memorable for the panel's forensic questioning and the MPs' use of parliamentary privilege to air allegations that journalists are often prevented from reporting because of libel laws.

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