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Team Sky chairman gives vote of confidence to Sir Dave Brailsford

As Jiffy Bag controversy rumbles on, news emerges that planned letter of support from riders had to be scrapped because it was missing Chris Froome's name...

In football, a public vote of confidence by the owner of a club in its manager is all too often followed within days by said manager being sacked - something that wouldn't be lost on the broadcaster Sky, with its rolling sports news coverage charting the comings and goings in Premier League clubs.

But a public vote of confidence made via Twitter is exactly what Team Sky chairman Graham McWilliam gave its beleaguered principal Sir Dave Brailsford yesterday evening shortly after the UCI WorldTour team set out in minute detail its position on anti-doping and response to questions raised about the mystery package delivered to its doctor at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine that contained medicine destined for Sir Bradley Wiggins.

He said that the Team Sky board and its headline sponsor were "100 per cent and Sir Dave Brailsford.”

The document released by Team Sky yesterday was accompanied by the publication of a letter from Brailsford himself to the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport in which he admitted that "mistakes were made" by the team but insisted that"‘there is a fundamental difference between process failures and wrongdoing."

It is precisely allegations of "wrongdoing" that UK Anti-doping (UKAD) is investigating with regards to the contents of that controversial Jiffy Bag, and last week its chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, was scathing of the team's record keeping as she testified to the select committee.

Brailsford himself had appeared before it last December, when he claimed to MPs that the package contained the decongestant Fluimucil, which remains Team Sky's position.

The team also hit back at Sapstead's claim before the select committee that the amount it had bought of the banned corticosteroid triamcinolone, taken under a therapeautic use exemption by Sir Bradley Wiggins before races including the 2012 Tour de France, which he won, were excessive if they were solely destined to be used by one rider.

It said: “It is reported that as many as 70 ampoules of triamcinolone were ordered by Team Sky in 2011 alone.

“This is incorrect. Our records indicate that 55 ampoules of triamcinolone were ordered by Team Sky over a four-year period between 2010 and 2013.

“Only a small proportion of this was administered to Team Sky riders.

"According to Dr Richard Freeman, the majority was used in his private practice and to treat Team Sky and British Cycling staff.”

If true, that again raises questions over Team Sky's documentation of medicines, an issue that stretches the credulity of many observers given its stated position of zero tolerance of doping; why would a doctor for a team in a sport that has been blighted by drugs cheats be dispensing a powerful performance enhancing drug to non-riding staff?

Neither of the two central figures in the controversy, Wiggins and former Team Sky doctor Freeman, have testified to the select committee.
Freeman had been due to do so last week but cancelled his scheduled appearance due to illness.

Wiggins, who changed management agencies at the statrt of the year apparently because he was unhappy at support he had received from former handlers XIX Entertainment over the controversy, has remained silent on the issue.

Besides the chairman of its board, most Team Sky riders took to Twitter earlier this week to express their backing of Brailsford, but among those who failed to do so was Team Sky's leading name, Chris Froome, winner of three of the last four editions of the Tour de France.

It was rather charitably suggested by some that Froome, who is visiting South Africa with his wife and son, simply hadn't been aware of the apparently spontaneous show of support for the team principal.

But that theory looks increasingly far-fetched with the Daily Mail reporting today that Team Sky had planned to release a statement signed by all riders in which they pledged their full backing of Brailsford but had to scrap it when Froome declined to sign it.

One rider who did tweet his support for Brailsford, Geraint Thomas, revealed yesterday that the continuing furore is impacting members of the team and expressed his frustration that neither Wiggins nor Freeman appeared to be held to account.


Simon joined as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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