UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) is reported to have launched an investigation into Sir Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky regarding a package said to have contained medicine that was flown to France on the final day of the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné at La Toussuire.
The package, which was taken by plane to Geneva by a British Cycling employee who returned the the UK the same evening, reports the Daily Mail’s Matt Lawton. The governing body confirmed to him that it did contain a medical substance, but have been unable to specify which one.
The race finished more than a fortnight before Wiggins was given the drug Triamcinolone under a Therapeutic Use Exemption dated 29 June 2011, as revealed by data published by the Fancy Bears hacking group last month.
As part of the Daily Mail’s investigation, Lawton exchanged messages and emails with Wiggins and his representatives, as well as with Team Sky prinicipal Sir Dave Brailsford, whom he met with last month to discuss the situation further.
The Daily Mail says it has received a letter from lawyers acting for Wiggins, the gist of which is that “any assertion their client was given an injection subject to the 2011 TUE before June 29 was false.”
The rider also insists that had he taken any banned substance, it would have been detected in the anti-doping control he underwent after winning the British national road race championship on 26 June 2011.
Brailsford has also rejected claims that Wiggins was administered the product contained in the package – whatever it was – in the treatment room on board the Team Sky bus following the final Dauphiné stage, insisting the vehicle was no longer at the finish area by the time the race winner had completed the post-race protocols of anti-doping control, podium presentation and press conference.
Lawton, who prior to the Rio Olympics broke the story of world champion Lizzie Armitstead’s missed drugs tests, said that according to “a Team Sky insider,” it was Simon Cope, working at the time for British Cycling but now manager of Team Wiggins, who flew out from the UK to deliver the package.
The Daily Mail says that Cope came to La Toussuire after a request from Team Sky and its then doctor, Richard Freeman, now with British Cycling, and that after his arrival Wiggins and Freeman retired to the treatment room in the Team Sky bus, according to its source.
The newspaper adds that British Cycling have suggested the substance contained in the package was not triamcinolone, which Wiggins subsequently received his TUE for, although the governing body could not confirm whether there was a record of what was inside.
The reporter met with Brailsford last week, with the Team Sky coach telling him that Cope, who was then manager of the Great Britain elite women’s road team, had made the journey to La Toussuire to deliver the package not to Wiggins, but to Emma Pooley.
On the day in question, however, Pooley was racing in Spain’s Basque region in the Emakumeen Bira. She told the Daily Mail: “'I absolutely was not at the Dauphiné Libéré [the race’s former name] in 2011, or any other year, and I absolutely did not meet Simon Cope there.
“That day I was at the Bira-Emakumeen-Bira stage race in the Pays Basque in Spain. I lost the yellow jersey on a rainy dangerous descent.”
Brailsford also insisted that the Team Sky bus left the finish area after the end of the stage, without Wiggins, and says that the driver was “pissed off” he hadn’t returned to the vehicle so he could congratulate him on his victory.
The Daily Mail has questioned that, highlighting a YouTube video which shows the rider being interviewed in front of a team vehicle and with the bus to his right. It’s unclear, however, at exactly what point that footage was shot, and it’s possible it could have been filmed before the podium presentation.
In a subsequent text message to Lawton, Brailsford is reported to have asked him whether the Daily Mail was “tapping my phone?” “I said we certainly were not,” says the reporter, to which Brailsford replied, “This is getting a bit strange and complicated.”
Wiggins and Brailsford have insisted that the triamcinolone that he was allowed to use under that TUE issued later in the month – he would receive similar permission ahead of the 2012 Tour de France, which he won, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia – was to treat a genuine medical condition, his allergies to grass and pollen.
While there is no suggestion Wiggins broke the rules in obtaining those TUEs, which were issued by the UCI in accordance with anti-doping regulations governing their use, the timing ahead of major races, method of administration through intramuscular injections, and the fact the substance has been used by others specifically to enhance performance have seen the rider’s use of the drug come under intense scrutiny.
That has been magnified by Team Sky’s insistence from its launch in 2010 that it has a zero tolerance approach to doping, and by statements in Wiggins’ 2012 autobiography My Time regarding his state of health ahead of races, and his aversion to needles.
Those seemingly conflict with what he has now admitted in connection with the TUEs in interviews with the BBC’s Andrew Marr and with the Guardian’s William Fotheringham – ghost writer of My Time – and whom he told last month that it was at the 2011 Dauphiné that he and Freeman had first discussed his using triamcinolone to combat his allergies.
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.