Home
Sunday papers come out against cycling's success story amid further revelations...

In Summer 2012, Team Sky and British Cycling were on top of the cycling world. Bradley Wiggins, five days on from becoming the first British rider to win the Tour de France, was given the honour of ringing the bell to get the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games under way.

In the velodrome at the Olympic Park in Stratford, Team GB dominated, as they had done in Beijing four years earlier, with Dave Brailsford - juggling at the time his role as Great Britain Cycling Team performance director with being Team Sky principal - the architect of those successes on the road and on the track.

Both would be knighted in the New Year's Honours at the end of the year, but now their reputations seem tarnished beyond repair - and while Wiggins may have retired, Brailsford remains at the helm of Team Sky but there are calls for him to resign.

When Team Sky was launched at the start of 2010, with Wiggins its prize catch, Brailsford's stated aim of winning the Tour de France clean with a British rider within five years attracted a mixture of mirth and incredulity.

Within three years, however, two had stood on the top step of the podium on the Champs-Elysees wearing the yellow jersey that in 2012 marked Wiggins and 12 months later Chris Froome as the winners of cycling's biggest race.

But now, Brailsford's much-repeated mantra of zero tolerance has the most hollow of rings to it.

Even if it cannot be proved that Team Sky broke any specific anti-doping rules, it's clear now that at the very least they pushed right up against the limits of what is legally allowed and in so doing entered a grey area that means they can no longer claim the moral high ground.

It's not often that the Mail on Sunday and The Observer agree on something.

But in separate opinion pieces published today, two of the most respected journalists in sport, the Mail's Oliver Holt and William Fotheringham of the Observer, both said Brailsford should go.

The background, of course, is the controversy over the Jiffy Bag delivered to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.

That, and the issuing of Therapeutic Use Exemptions to Wiggins for otherwise banned drugs ahead of key races including that 2012 Tour de France.

In a scathing piece in the Mail on Sunday, Holt said: "Caught out in lie after lie, wriggling like a fish on a hook, it has become obvious now that the entire concept of Team Sky was a giant masquerade, a grand illusion, indulged by cheerleaders for too long and run by hollow men.

"I'm sorry if that sounds harsh but it's meant to. Team Sky took a lot of us for suckers. The protestations of their general manager, Sir Dave Brailsford, that this was to be a team with spotless competitive ethics, determined to win the right way, seems bitterly funny now."

It's hard to disagree with him.

Yes, some might point out that he isn't a specialist cycling writer, or they might take issue with him due to the newspaper he  writes for, but he is far from the only journalist casting doubt on Sky's ethos.

Veteran cycling journalist William Fotheringham, the author of some of the best books on the sport, didn't pull any punches in his piece in the Observer today.

He asked:  "When does a situation become sufficiently untenable that to remain in post is counterproductive? When to leave and how to do it so that one’s departure does as little damage as possible?"

Fotheringham continued: "I imagine – I would hope – that Sir Dave Brailsford is thinking along those lines at present, reflecting on his position in the wake of Wednesday’s horror show in a House of Commons committee room, pondering the background and trying to anticipate what the future might hold as UK Anti-Doping continues its inquiry into the putative contents of the most infamous Jiffy bag in British sport."

Describing Brailsford's position as "untenable," he added: "If he is not persuaded, it is time for Sky’s equivalent of the men in suits to step in" - and sack him.

Quite how much damage is being done to the Sky brand with the continuing revelations that cast a shadow over its successes, and what implications that might have for future financial support of the venture, is a chapter yet to be written in its story.

 

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.

38 comments

Avatar
Sevenfold [81 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

What are the odds on Sky pulling sponsorship at the end of the year?

Avatar
davel [1965 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

WTF is going on with these duplicated stories/sets of comments...

I was just about to reply to a comment that went along the lines of 'no new evidence, nothing to see' etc etc that is spectacularly missing the point.

Reputational damage does not work like that. PT Barnum would walk away from the mess that is currently Sky/BC, and that won't be lost on Froome or whichever Murdoch finds himself having to deal with this shit.

Avatar
sttuey [15 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes

I said it would all go very Armstwrong years ago. And voila.

Avatar
cragman53 [4 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes

"it's clear now that at the very least they pushed right up against the limits of what is legally allowed"

How many of us drive at 29mph or less all the time in a 30mph zone. If it's within the rules it's within the rules.

Avatar
SingleSpeed [378 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes
cragman53 wrote:

"it's clear now that at the very least they pushed right up against the limits of what is legally allowed"

How many of us drive at 29mph or less all the time in a 30mph zone. If it's within the rules it's within the rules.

 

I tend to drive at 20 or 25mph in a 30mph zone, 30mph being the limit not a target. but the point you're making is irrelevant.

It is now becoming pretty clear that Team Sky, Bradley Wiggins, were ordering large quantities of Performance Enchancing Drugs that were legally administered under the premise of TUE's for conditions that either didn't exist or wouldn't warrant such quantities of the drug administered. 

So yes they acted within the rules by employing a bent doctor, who lost his Laptop and had drugs delivered by a Mule in a jiffy bag.

They will all of course keep their heads down, avoid the press and they'll all keep their Knighthoods, go them.

 

Avatar
cragman53 [4 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes
SingleSpeed wrote:

I tend to drive at 20 or 25mph in a 30mph zone, 30mph being the limit not a target. but the point you're making is irrelevant.

Why is irrelevant? You may drive at that speed but the majority don't. If you don't belive me ask any traffic officer. Most people wil push the limits of the rules in whatever walk of life. The press have nothing better to do than duplicate the same story day after day.

 

 

Avatar
SingleSpeed [378 posts] 9 months ago
6 likes
cragman53 wrote:

 

Why is irrelevant? 

 

Because of the moral stance bandied around by Sky, Brailsford and Wiggins, it's irrelevant that they could it's the case of whether or not they should.

They are to coin a phrase being hoisted by their own petard.

 

Avatar
ColT [344 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
cragman53 wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

I tend to drive at 20 or 25mph in a 30mph zone, 30mph being the limit not a target. but the point you're making is irrelevant.

Why is irrelevant? You may drive at that speed but the majority don't. If you don't belive me ask any traffic officer. Most people wil push the limits of the rules in whatever walk of life. The press have nothing better to do than duplicate the same story day after day.

 

Ha. Indeed.  I'd say you can extend the analogy.  Namely, get on any motorway and you'll find huge numbers doing 70+, hoping they won't get caught...

Human nature?

Avatar
Flustercluck [16 posts] 9 months ago
6 likes
cragman53 wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

I tend to drive at 20 or 25mph in a 30mph zone, 30mph being the limit not a target. but the point you're making is irrelevant.

Why is irrelevant? You may drive at that speed but the majority don't. If you don't belive me ask any traffic officer. Most people wil push the limits of the rules in whatever walk of life. The press have nothing better to do than duplicate the same story day after day.

 

The point is , repeated lying and diversion to try and cover what really happened.  it's hugely convenient that all these records seem to be missing, don't you think? And nobody seemed to think it necessary to ask any questions? 

 

Taking a TUE under legitimate circumstances is within the rules.  Using a TUE when it isn't required, in order to administer an otherwise banned substance is not within the rules.  Especially when you hear that other doctors also working for the same team, got together to stop the doc in question from applying a further TUE that didn't happen, because they had issues with the ethics of the application. 

Avatar
grahamjamescampbell [2 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes

I'm still at something of a loss about the specific accusations being laid at Brailsford's door here.

Now, having being burned back with the Armstrong situation - I was very much along the lines of "until there's evidence of wrongdoing, there shouldn't be all this uproar" back then - I'm still very much one to wait to see what the accusation and evidence are before doing anything else.

Is there a specific allegation here, aside from 'he cheated' or 'no smoke without fire'?

Avatar
davel [1965 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
Flustercluck wrote:
cragman53 wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

I tend to drive at 20 or 25mph in a 30mph zone, 30mph being the limit not a target. but the point you're making is irrelevant.

Why is irrelevant? You may drive at that speed but the majority don't. If you don't belive me ask any traffic officer. Most people wil push the limits of the rules in whatever walk of life. The press have nothing better to do than duplicate the same story day after day.

 

The point is , repeated lying and diversion to try and cover what really happened.  it's hugely convenient that all these records seem to be missing, don't you think? And nobody seemed to think it necessary to ask any questions? 

 

Taking a TUE under legitimate circumstances is within the rules.  Using a TUE when it isn't required, in order to administer an otherwise banned substance is not within the rules.  Especially when you hear that other doctors also working for the same team, got together to stop the doc in question from applying a further TUE that didn't happen, because they had issues with the ethics of the application. 

Exactly. The speeding analogy is thin at the moment; people really wouldn't have a problem with Sky driving at 29 or 30, or 70 on the motorway, would they? The debate doesn't centre on them following the usual rules, does it?

To make the analogy work, you'd need to add in special permission from the authorities to speed, suspicion around the speeding done or the need to actually speed, how often speeding had happened, the continued insistence that you hadn't actually done anything wrong, and the loss of any evidence which might back up your story.

This isn't just taking any opportunity to kick Sky, or BC, or whoever. Look at Froome - clear about his Tue (was it one or two?) at the time, still cycling, very little shit thrown his way over this. This Wiggins/Jiffy stuff is different - hence the accusations.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will [814 posts] 9 months ago
5 likes

Na... I think the analogy is nearly perfect... people drive on the motorway working to a rule that is roughly; penalties are applied at given speedlimit +10%. 

That may not be official, but its a safe rule to use.

So... using a drug through a TUE is valid as long as the TUE is defendable / cleared. 

Personally speaking, the Sky doctor(s) were taking the piss... asking for permission to use a rocket fuel solution when not nexessary. 

However, why not take the piss, if the authorites say no, you do something else, if they say yes, you are well away... a marginal gain in the bank.

For me, all this current attention is bollards. The smoking gun, if there is one, is the relationship between Team Sky, its doctors and the individual in the UCI / WADA granting the TUEs.

If there are grounds for going nuts, it is around how that relationship was manipulated, and whether in doing so, the TUE submission went from playing in the grey's to out and out cheating.

All this talk about hurt feelings, projecting one image and living another is completely pointless... as is talk about that bloody jiffy bag... The focus needs and should be around the relationship between Sky and the authorities. 

 

Avatar
stem [40 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

Any editorials in the Murdoch press?

Avatar
Yorkshire wallet [1565 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

I wonder if we'll ever see an era where basically it's down to Mother Nature - if you're ill or suffering a problem then this isn't the event/sport for you?

 

Avatar
grahamjamescampbell [2 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

Na... I think the analogy is nearly perfect... people drive on the motorway working to a rule that is roughly; penalties are applied at given speedlimit +10%. 

That may not be official, but its a safe rule to use.

So... using a drug through a TUE is valid as long as the TUE is defendable / cleared. 

Personally speaking, the Sky doctor(s) were taking the piss... asking for permission to use a rocket fuel solution when not nexessary. 

However, why not take the piss, if the authorites say no, you do something else, if they say yes, you are well away... a marginal gain in the bank.

For me, all this current attention is bollards. The smoking gun, if there is one, is the relationship between Team Sky, its doctors and the individual in the UCI / WADA granting the TUEs.

If there are grounds for going nuts, it is around how that relationship was manipulated, and whether in doing so, the TUE submission went from playing in the grey's to out and out cheating.

All this talk about hurt feelings, projecting one image and living another is completely pointless... as is talk about that bloody jiffy bag... The focus needs and should be around the relationship between Sky and the authorities. 

 

 

There we go, that's what I was after. Very succint, thanks!

Avatar
beezus fufoon [950 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

so yeah, they lied about never exceeding 50 mph, but hey - they were only doing 75mph...

Avatar
Nixster [382 posts] 9 months ago
3 likes

The one thing Brailsford is absolutely bang-to-rights on, and the reason he should go, is the apalling media handling of the whole TUE/Jiffy bag story. 

Now, that might be because there isn't a good and plausible story to tell in defence or it might be because repeated cock-ups or missing information have undermined  that story but either way he is accountable, as I understand the way Team Sky are set up.

If he simply asked himself whether he is now an asset or a liability to the team I think the answer would be self evident.

Avatar
MonkeyPuzzle [32 posts] 9 months ago
4 likes

That there's even still debate about how 'right' (not 'legally') Sky have acted only shows just how jaded some who follow cycling have become. As the article says, Sky set themselves up as the white knights of the sport, but have fallen quite some way short of that.

The mantra should be: Do the right thing and be seen to be doing it. Teams should look at how things even *could* look in hindsight and make sure they have the records and means to justify themselves if they need to. It's standard governance throughout good business and with cycling's less-than-stellar recent history it shouldn't be a lesson that needs to be spelt out.

Avatar
Yorkshire wallet [1565 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes

I bet some other teams are thinking 'thank f*ck for this' though. I'd be surprised if there's not been more of this stuff over the years.

Avatar
Edgeley [508 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
davel wrote:

WTF is going on with these duplicated stories/sets of comments...

I was just about to reply to a comment that went along the lines of 'no new evidence, nothing to see' etc etc that is spectacularly missing the point.

Reputational damage does not work like that. PT Barnum would walk away from the mess that is currently Sky/BC, and that won't be lost on Froome or whichever Murdoch finds himself having to deal with this shit.

 

There are a bunch of comments that have disappeared.  I also responded to the comment you are referring to.  The comment and my response have gone.

Avatar
only1redders [112 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

The way I look at this is the word integrity, ie, doing the right thing when no-one is looking. If you're 'busted' doing something that is in your mind 'part of the game', is that justifiable in the wider audience, or would the general public/media jump on you for doing something which they perceive as unacceptable

For me, that's where Team Sky are really falling down. Lack of integrity and credibility is hitting them currently in the public domain, they are probably losing some respect in the peloton and potentially down the line, they could be hit financially as well if Sky choose to withdraw

Avatar
Skids99 [1 post] 9 months ago
4 likes

Have to remember this was 6 years ago. Hands up any MDs of start up multi million pound companies with 80+ staff who would remember, or even known about this at the time when you have trusted staff to perform a competent duty. Big test should be 'could this happen again now'. With current world class governance systems and third party consulting and auditing now done by Sky, I think that is highly unlikely. The fact that other doctors stepped in at the time suggests the governance back then was pretty tight. And all this done WITHOUT ANY RULES ACTUALLY BEING BROKEN. The nature of any performance environment is to push the rules to the limit, but without crossing it. Appears Sky have worked hand in hand with the authorities to check everything they do is OK, and this is still not good enough apparently. The package is a strange occurence, and yes does bring a load of questions. But again this was 6 years ago, maybe someone needs to go in there today and see if it could happen again before trying to dismantle a fantastic British success story for the sake a personal journalistic ego boost.

Avatar
Carton [393 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes

I actually think the speeding analogy is accurate, in that there is a level of hypocrisy here. Everyone fudges the rules a times, all of us fans, and so do other teams. 

But then again Sky fed heavily into the hypocrisy by marketing themselves as white knights cleaner than the driven snow. They set up their own trumped-up rules, and then reapetedly broke them. They hired (pretty known in many cases) dopers as staff, riders, and even medics. They failed to back up their records. They failed to be transparent. They failed to own up to their mistakes. And, to compound those trangressions with the worst of vices, they started winning.

They brought a huge spotlight onto themselves, and only made it bigger through their results and their discourse. It's sliver of a shame, as I doubt most other teams are any better. And they've done more than most to advance cycling. They were uniquely unafraid to experiment and learn through their failures be it in training (poor Porte's patchy peaking) or fabrics (sunblock anyone?) or techology (let's bring back elastomers!) or anything else, really.

But pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall. And they really soared on those wax, I'm sorry, hydrodynamic nano-optimized friction antagonist, wings. It's only fitting that the unwavering hypocrisy that accompanied their rise will reach its ultimate form in a chain reaction so brilliant it can only be described as beautiful: hypocritical fans, who never cared about anything but the laundry; cycling journalists, who without them would just fill their time interviewing Contador and Van Avermaet; sporting journalists, who haves so adapated to burrowing in the sand (football, anyone?) that they're growing scales, and politicians. Ce'est la vie, n'est ce pas?

Avatar
Morat [280 posts] 9 months ago
1 like

I thought HSBC were taking over next year, or have I got that wrong?

Avatar
mike the bike [980 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
stem wrote:

Any editorials in the Murdoch press?

 

Yep.  A full page critique by David Walsh (the man who tormented Armstrong for years ) in the Sunday Times, followed by a scathing comment column.

Avatar
risoto [40 posts] 9 months ago
5 likes

I have been suspecious ever since the beginning - team Sky was just as ambitious as US Postal in the Lance Armstrong era - win at all costs. Just using the phrase "marginal gains", haha, what a joke, but people believed it just like they believed the "why would Lance dope after barely surviving cancer". A culture of bullying just as US Postal. Can it really surprise anyone?

Even worse - how about UK track cycling - same management, same culture. Are all the gold medals as clean as they appear to be?

Not that I care about doping as long as it avoids deaths in the peloton. Sport is about winning at all cost. Cheating has been widespred in cycling ever since the first races including the tour the France of 1903!! Cheat all you like, just make sure nobody finds out. I actually find Lance to be a hero, it was fun to watch and he was a fantastic leader if there ever was one.

Avatar
SingleSpeed [378 posts] 9 months ago
2 likes
Skids99 wrote:

The fact that other doctors stepped in at the time suggests the governance back then was pretty tight. And all this done WITHOUT ANY RULES ACTUALLY BEING BROKEN. The nature of any performance environment is to push the rules to the limit, but without crossing it. Appears Sky have worked hand in hand with the authorities to check everything they do is OK, and this is still not good enough apparently. The package is a strange occurence, and yes does bring a load of questions. But again this was 6 years ago, maybe someone needs to go in there today and see if it could happen again before trying to dismantle a fantastic British success story for the sake a personal journalistic ego boost.

 

 

"And all this done WITHOUT ANY RULES ACTUALLY BEING BROKEN"

 

Talk to the GMC about that, looking at the reports and testimonies of other medical professionals treating hayfever with powerful corticosteroids is tantatmount to moving your lawn with a Combine Harvester.

 

Whichever way you look at it someone has telling porkies, faking medical records, or shouldn't be working in a medical capacity. This isn't a case of Beckham kicking someone who fouled him and having effigies burnt outside pubs and being attacked by the British Media who love to take people down a peg or two, you can bandy around the 'never broke a rule' but don't forget cycling legend Lance Armstrong never failed a doping test.

 

Some quotes from another disgraced British Cyclist:

 

 

“As I said in my book [Racing Through The Dark], I took EPO and testosterone patches, and they obviously produce huge differences in your blood and you felt at your top level … Kenacort, though, was the only one you took and three days later you looked different.

“I remember it was one of the reasons I took sleeping pills because Kenacort put you on this weird high. It’s quite scary because it’s catabolic so it’s eating into you. It felt destructive. It felt powerful.”

Millar said there was no doubt in his mind that the drug was performance-enhancing and called on the powers-that-be to ban its use in-competition via TUEs.

“You would do all the training but my weight would stick,” he said. “But if I took Kenacort, 1.5-2kgs would drop off in like a week. And not only would the weight drop off I would feel stronger.

“If you are non-asthmatic and you take Ventolin it’s not going to give you any advantage. But if you take Kenacort it’s not only going to make a sick person better, it’s going to make a sick person better than a healthy person. That’s a very grey area.

“I’m sure there are other forms of cortisone that could be used for allergies which aren’t so potent or performance-enhancing.” He added: “We [athletes] shouldn’t have to face this. If it’s that strong we shouldn’t be allowed to take it unless there is a serious issue. 

"And if we’re suffering from that serious an issue, we shouldn’t be racing. I don’t know how a doctor could prescribe it [before a race]. I can’t fathom it.”

Avatar
Malaconotus [104 posts] 9 months ago
4 likes

I think the speeding analogy does work.  This is like an police car going at 60 in a 30, having radioed in to say it was attending an emergency.  Only it wasn't a genuine emergency, it was to get to the chippy before it closed.

This isn't just pushing the rules. It's cheating. They've used performance enhancing drugs to enhance performance, not for genuine medical need. 

And we haven't heard the last of it. Who did all the other 60-odd Kenalog doses go to?  How does a drugs supplier accidentally send, out of all the 100s of drugs it might mis-ship, the one drug which happens to be the most routinely abused performance enhancers in cycling history in the delivery format preferred by the 90s biggest drug cheats?

Avatar
Leviathan [2863 posts] 9 months ago
0 likes
Morat wrote:

I thought HSBC were taking over next year, or have I got that wrong?

HSBC will be sponsors of BC, so track, youth etc.

Avatar
Scowel [51 posts] 9 months ago
1 like
cragman53 wrote:
SingleSpeed wrote:

I tend to drive at 20 or 25mph in a 30mph zone, 30mph being the limit not a target. but the point you're making is irrelevant.

Why is irrelevant? You may drive at that speed but the majority don't. If you don't belive me ask any traffic officer. Most people wil push the limits of the rules in whatever walk of life. The press have nothing better to do than duplicate the same story day after day.

I think to extend the analogy Team Sky were banging on about driving at 20-25mph and making rather a big do about how great they were for doing that, when in fact they were just like all the other teams

 

 

Pages