The doctor involved in the controversy over a mystery package containing medicine for Sir Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné has confessed that neither Team Sky nor British Cycling kept written records relating to their stock of medicines at the time. The chair of a House of Commons select
Richard Freeman had been due to appear before the House of Commons Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport earlier this month as part of its investigation into doping in sport, but pulled out at the eleventh hour, citing illness.
In a letter published today by the select committee, he puts his version of events in which he highlights the absence at the time of a written procedure to keep track of medicines given to riders and expresses his “regret” at failing to back up his own records.
In his letter, he wrote: “In 2011 neither [Team Sky nor British Cycling] had a written medicines-management policy or stock-taking system. This was not uncommon practice in sports teams at that time.
“In early 2012 Dr Steve Peters [then head of medicine at Team Sky] and I introduced a basic stock-control review of the medicines ordered for British Cycling. This has evolved into a written medicine-management policy.”
At the time of the 2011 Dauphiné, when former British Cycling women’s road team manager Simon Cope delivered a package claimed to include the decongestant Fluimucil, which is not banned, administration of medicines was logged against individual riders’ own medical records.
He said: “This included not just the name of the medicine but the dose recommendations, the amount and the batch number, to minimise the risk of medicines containing prohibited substances being acquired by a rider.”
However, Freeman did not back up records for Wiggins to the cloud-based system Team Sky employed, and said his laptop was subsequently stolen while holidaying in Greece.
“I accept that it would have been desirable to have backed up my clinical records, whatever system was used. I regret not doing this,” he wrote, pointing out that “travelling with a team is a very different environment from sitting in a GP surgery.”
The doctor highlighted that “It was very important to be sure that any medicines sent to the team on tour were appropriate and from a reliable source.”
In recent weeks, it has transpired that Freeman had previously bought Fluimucil from pharmacies in Germany and Switzerland – the latter location a three-hour drive from where the French race was held in June 2011.
But he said: “During the Dauphine in June 2011, we were running low on Fluimucil. My first thought was of the supply I had in Manchester, and that the team would be able to access that supply quickly.
“It did not occur to me to travel to Switzerland. Only Fluimucil was contained in the package sent.”
Freeman also spoke about the issue of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), which allow athletes to take drugs which would otherwise be banned if they have a genuine medical need.
Records released by computer hackers after last summer’s Rio Olympics show that Wiggins took the controversial drug triamcinolone before the Tour de France in 2011 and 2012, and the Giro d’Italia in 2013, to treat hay fever and grass and pollen allergies.
Earlier this month, it was claimed that some of Team Sky’s medical staff had taken steps including changing computer passwords to prevent Freeman issuing a fourth TUE for triamcinolone prior to the 2013 Tour of Britain.
In his letter to the select committee, Freeman said that he was “aware of only a handful of riders” at either British Cycling or Team Sky “being referred to hospital for image-guided triamcinolone injection for clinical need, with none needing a TUE.
“My practice has never been compromised by coaches or management ever at Team Sky or British Cycling,” he added.
“I am not, and have not been, concerned that the TUE process is abused by athletes, in relation to my clinical experience and practice.”
The select committee’s chair, Damian Collins, said that the information provided by Freeman raised “major questions outstanding for Team Sky and British Cycling.
He added: “In particular, why were no back-up medical records kept for Bradley Wiggins in 2011, beyond those on Dr Freeman’s laptop computer?
“Why were there not more formal protocols enforced on record-keeping?
“And whose responsibility was it to make sure that Team Sky’s own stated policies were being enforced?”
Freeman said in his letter that the health of the athletes in his care was his principal concern, and that "athletes' health has never been compromised by forcing me to make a recommendation against my will and clinical judgment.
"I have never encountered a winning at all costs attitude in these organisations. Indeed both organisations have indeed allowed me to care for my patients protecting me from the performance demands that exist to win in elite sport."
Wiggins, who retired in December, broke his silence last week on the controversy that has overshadowed the end of his career.
Appearing on Sky Sport's Saturday morning football show Soccer AM, he said that doping is “the worst thing to be accused of when you're a man of my integrity.
"It's been horrible. But fortunately there's an investigation and I obviously can't say too much because that investigation will run its course and then I'll have my say.
"There's a lot to say, and it's going to shock a few people," he added.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.