Sir Dave Brailsford has revealed that the package delivered to Team Sky at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné and destined for Sir Bradley WIggins, who had just sealed overall victory at the race, contained the decongestant Fluimucil.
Also known as Acetylcysteine, neither word appears on the 2011 World Anti-Doping Prohibited List. Belonging to the mucolytic family of medicines, Fluimucil is used to treat excess build-up of mucus that blocks the airways.
Delivery of the package was first revealed by Mail Online in October, though today is the first time the contents have been revealed.
It was delivered to Team Sky's former doctor Richard Freeman by ex-British Cycling employee Simon Cope, now sports director at Team Wiggins.
Brailsford was giving evidence at the House of Commons to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which had summoned the Team Sky principal to appear before it as part of its inquiry into doping in sport.
Earlier today, British Cycling president Bob Howden and Dr George Gilbert, a member of the governing body's board and chair of its Ethics Commission, had repeatedly told MPs they were unable to answer questions about the package because it was the subject of an ongoing UK Anti-doping (UKAD) investigation.
Former Team Sky coach Shane Sutton, who appeared before the committee prior to Brailsford giving evidence, confirmed however that it did contain medicine.
Today’s session, chaired by the MP Damian Collins, began with Howden and Gilbert been grilled, but the stonewalled questions about the package delivered to Freeman.
They claimed they had been told to say nothing about by UK Anti-doping (UKAD), which is conducting its own investigation into the issue, but at the same time insisted they knew nothing of the contents.
John Nicholson MP noted their suggestion that Cope had told them it might have contained pedals or shoes.
He asked: “Would that not be odd, pedals being flown out to a doctor?” Gilbert replied that it would, but reiterated that he and Howden were unable to speak about the subject of UKAD’s investigation, and repeating that neither of them knew what was in it.
Sutton, at least, was aware it contained medicine, but he was unable to be more specific.
The Australian, whom Wiggins as described in the past as a father figure, was at the 2011 race. He said that while he had left after Cope delivered the package, it did contain medicine that Freeman administered to Wiggins.
The Australian seemed exasperated by continued questioning about why he was unaware of the contents of the package, saying: “I am astounded that you would suggest we have not done it by the book.”
But he confirmed that Freeman had asked him if he knew anyone coming from the UK to the area who could bring a package, and insisted it was a Team Sky matter and nothing to do with British Cycling.
At the end of his evidentiary session, he was asked if he wished to say anything about the Jess Varnish case which led to British Cycling finding him guilty of “inappropriate and discriminatory language” in October, although it has since transpired that only one of nine allegations against him was upheld.
“Apologise?” he said. “In 10 years I had not had one complaint against me until one athlete was dropped from the team.”
Sutton, who has said he plans to appeal, added: “She’s entitled to have her say and I can have my say but I’ll leave it up to the legal team.”
It was Brailsford who eventually confirmed what was in the package, adding that there “should be” a paper trail in relation to the delivery of the Fluimucil. Asked if anything else was in the package, he replied: “I hope not.”
He said he trusted the team’s doctors, but pointed out that patient confidentiality often meant he would be unaware of certain issues.
Brailsford insisted he had “confidence” in the team’s medical staff, adding, “the discretion of doctors is very good and they will share information on a need to know basis.”
He was also pressed on the team’s policy regarding the use of TUEs – three of which Wiggins received, before the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia to treat grass and pollen allergies.
In response, he underlined that “there has to be a medical need.”
Brailsford was also quizzed about the controversial former Rabobank doctor Geert Leinders whom Sky employed on a freelance basis until severing ties in October with the Belgian, now banned for life for doping-related activities.
“It wasn’t my greatest decision,” he acknowledged. “I hold my hands up. He went through our processes and once we found out he had a past we acted on it.”
In conclusion, Brailsford conceded: “There are lessons to be learned. I have handled this situation very badly.
“But,” he added, “we have reviewed all our policies and how we use TUEs in the future and how do we gain and provide transparency while protecting competitive advantage.
“We invite anybody to come and examine us and scrutinise us.”
Neither British Cycling nor Team Sky emerges from today’s session with credit, all the more so because it has been two months since allegations of the package were first reported and they had ample time to prepare for today’s hearing and to anticipate the type of questions that would be asked.
Now, both will be waiting the results of the investigation conducted by UKAD, which is due to report shortly.
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.