Sunday Times journalist David Walsh, author of the book Inside Team Sky, has questioned the British WorldTour outfit’s commitment to its ethical policies following its application for a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) in April to allow Chris Froome to take part in the Tour de Romandie while taking medication to treat a chest infection.
Walsh’s criticism came as French newspaper Le Journal de Dimanche reiterated its claim, originally made the previous week, that the UCI did not adhere to correct procedures in granting Froome a TUE for glucocorticosteroids ahead of the Tour de Romandie in April.
The journalist, who spent a period of 2013 embedded within Team Sky, claimed in The Sunday Times [£] that Sky had changed its position on TUEs, asking: “What has happened to the team's belief that TUEs should not be sought for riders in competition?”
He said that while Froome and team doctor Alan Farrell said they could recall no such stance, sports psychiatrist Steve Peters, who worked with the team as part of his former role at British Cycling, insisted that had been the team’s policy.
“Team Sky like to portray themselves as the most ethical team in the peloton. The evidence says otherwise,” Walsh added.
While Sky would not say yesterday whether it had ever had internal rules regarding not using TUEs, Telegraph Sport says that the team confirmed it had no problem applying for one “where appropriate.”
Regarding the TUE issued to Froome ahead of the Tour de Romandie, a spokesman for the team said: “This treatment was considered, documented and fully in line with good medical practice and all guidelines.
“We gave proper care to the rider, made the appropriate – though rare – use of a TUE and followed the correct procedures, as WADA and the UCI made clear.
“Team Sky’s stance on anti-doping is well-known. We follow the rules, ride clean and fully support the authorities in their work."
Following the claims made by Le Journal du Dimanche a week ago that the UCI had deviated from the correct procedure in issuing the TUE to Froome, who had been suffering a chest cold, the governing body, Team Sky and the World Anti-Doping Agency all said that the matter was in order and above board.
The newspaper maintained that the TUE had been issued on the sole authority of Dr Mario Zorzoli of the UCI’s medical committee, but says the decision should have been taken by a committee in line with the World Anti-Doping Code.
Last week, responding to the French newspaper’s original allegations, the UCI said: “Christopher Froome’s TUE for oral use of glucocorticosteroids was granted on April 29, 2014 based on duly documented medical history and in compliance with the applicable UCI Regulations and the relevant WADA guidelines.
“The TUE was granted for a limited period, following the usual procedure. The process was fully transparent as it is UCI’s policy to systematically record all TUEs on ADAMS. WADA was therefore informed throughout the process.
“The UCI wishes to emphasise that under the applicable rules – which are consistent with the WADA Code and the WADA TUE Standard and Guidelines – any rider with the same symptoms as Christopher Froome would have received a similar TUE,” it added.
WADA subsequently said in a statement that it was "satisfied that the UCI's decision to grant a Therapeutic Use Exemption to Chris Froome was conducted according to the rules of the International Standard for Therapeutic Use Exemptions, and therefore will not be reviewing this case any further".
However, yesterday, Le Journal de Dimanche claimed that WADA was urging the UCI to put such a committee in place to handle applications for TUEs and said that it understood that the governing body would remedy the situation ahead of the Tour de France.
Teams that are members of the Movement For Credible Cycling (MPCC), which includes 11 of the 18 top-flight WorldTour outfits, believe that riders should not be allowed to race if they have an illness that requires a TUE to be granted.
Sky, in common with six other leading teams, is not a member of the group, and a spokesman said: “The MPCC is a voluntary organisation and we’ve made the choice, like others have, not to be a member.”
Telegraph Sport points out that while Sky’s use of TUEs would not be in line with the MPCC’s code of conduct, other policies imposed by the team are more stringent than those adopted by the organisation, such as not employing riders or team personnel who have been involved in doping.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.