Sir Bradley Wiggins’ former team manager Jonathan Vaughters says the British rider’s 2012 Tour de France victory is “blemished” by his use of normally banned drugs under a therapeutic use exemption and that Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford must take the blame for “gaming the system.”
Vaughters managed Wiggins at Garmin-Slipstream in 2009, the year in which he finished a surprise fourth overall at the Tour de France. He would subsequently be elevated to third place overall after Lance Armstrong was disqualified for doping.
At the end of that season despite still being under contract, Wiggins would move to the new Team Sky as its marquee signing, something that still rankles with Vaughters, who described him as “the most gifted athlete I have ever worked with,” reports The Sunday Times.
The American, who is currently in the UK promoting his book One Way Ticket: Nine Lives on Two Wheels accused Brailsford, who was already working closely with Wiggins as performance director of British Cycling of “poisoning Brad’s mindset” ahead of the move.
“The situation with Brad was an absolute bully situation, with Dave and all those attorneys,” Vaughters said. “I don’t find that terribly forgivable.”
Following the Rio Olympics in 2016, where Wiggins won his fifth career Olympic gold medal, the Russia-based Fancy Bears hacking group revealed that the rider had been granted the powerful corticosteroid triamcinolone under therapeutic use exemptions on three occasions, including before the 2012 Tour de France.
Wiggins and Team Sky have claimed that the drug was used to treat the rider’s hay fever, but with triamcinolone helping reduce weight while retaining power, it has been abused by those looking to gain an illegal advantage.
Vaughters described the use of the TUEs as “gaming the system, adding, “It’s a blemished victory and that’s painful; Brad was gifted enough to win a Tour de France straight up.
“It will always be questioned, ‘Could he have won the Tour that year if he was 1kg heavier? Or could he have lost that 1kg another way?’
“Brad’s level of natural talent is enormous, but valid questions now hang over him. I think the people advising him did him a disservice.”
As to where blame should lie, he said:
“One thing I am trying to drive home is that we in management are responsible for giving these athletes the correct message and helping them come to the correct decisions.”
The issue of the TUEs to Wiggins, as well as the contents of the Jiffy Bag delivered to former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman became the subject of a parliamentary enquiry as well as an investigation by UK Anti-doping which determined that there was insufficient evidence to establish that an anti-doping rule violation had been committed.
When asked if Brailsford, who remains team principal of what since last month has been Team Ineos, is a trustworthy figure to lead a team, Vaughters replied:
“Without doubt he learnt from the Wiggins decision. I doubt he would ever make that decision again.”
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.