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by Neal Rogers
September 27, 2016
Photography by Cor Vos
Following a prolonged period of silence regarding the revelation that Bradley Wiggins had been granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the corticosteroid triamcinolone before Grand Tours in 2011, 2012 and 2013, Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford stood by the team’s decision to request the UCI to allow it, saying the corticosteroid was not abused, but rather “for medical need.”
In interviews that spanned across BBC Sports, Sky News, and The Telegraph, Brailsford said that Wiggins’ TUEs for triamcinolone, prior to three Grand Tours — including his historic Tour de France win in 2012 — to treat allergies and respiratory issues, were “medically appropriate,” and that the team does not “cross the line” when it comes to performance-enhancing drugs.
“It was not being used to enhance performance,” Brailsford told BBC sports editor Dan Roan. “I have known Bradley a long time and he is an asthma sufferer and he has struggled with allergies for as long as I have known him. I know that at the time there was a recommendation to see a specialist, he went to see a specialist and was then given permission by the authorities. I trust and believe in the integrity of that process.”
Brailsford had not commented since Wiggins’ TUEs — along with those of Chris Froome and several other athletes from other sports — were first made public, on September 15, by Russian hackers Fancy Bears.
Brailsford, who admitted he was aware of Wiggins’ TUEs and the recommendation for triamcinolone, revealed that Sky has been granted 13 TUEs since its foundation in 2010.
He said that, moving forward, the team will make any future applications public, contingent on the consent of the athlete — suggesting that the team may consider withdrawing any rider who is not willing to allow his medical details to be released.
“If it’s a suspicious pattern of TUEs, I’d go back to the TUE authority. ‘Why did you grant it?’” Brailsford said to several reporters, including Tom Cary at The Telegraph. “You have to have trust and integrity in your people. If you are suggesting I should have suspicion, or go back and look at the intent of what’s going on, I have to have trust and believe in the integrity of that process and in the UCI who grant it.
“So it comes back to… this sport has a past. For sure it has a past. That medication, people claim to have abused it, claim to have abused the system. But this wasn’t a question for me of abuse. It was a medical need. It’s a medication. We put the health of our riders as one of our key impact areas. Having the right health around the riders is important to us. And here’s a piece of paper that says, ‘yes, that’s appropriate.’”
On Sunday, Wiggins appeared on The Andrew Marr Show and said he had been “struggling” with his breathing, and that he’d received no unfair advantage from using triamcinolone. However in interviews ahead of the 2012 Tour, and in his subsequent autobiography, he made no mention of breathing difficulties and said he was in peak condition.
In an attempt to address the discrepancies in his accounts, Wiggins said he took medical advice to take triamcinolone to treat his asthma and respiratory issues.
“I went to my team doctor at the time and we went, in turn, to a specialist to see if there’s anything else we could do to cure these problems,” Wiggins said. “This was to cure a medical condition. This wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage. This was about putting myself back on a level playing-field in order to compete at the highest level.”
Marr pointed out that Wiggins had specifically said, in his book, that he hadn’t received injections other than vaccinations and IV fluids.
“Well, for medical conditions, and I think at the time that the book I was – I wasn’t writing the book,” said Wiggins. “I was writing it with a cycling journalist [ghostwriter William Fotheringham – ed.] who’s very knowledgeable on the sport and had lived through the whole era of the Lance Armstrong era and the doping era. All the questions at that time were very much loaded towards doping.”
Brailsford told BBC on Monday that Team Sky has always had a strong anti-drug stance, and that fans should continue to have “100% trust” in the team’s riders being clean.
“It is the very essence of why we created this team,” he said. “I can guarantee no one in this team has, or will, be put under pressure to do anything outside of the rules.”
Brailsford added that in the same situation, he would likely do the same thing again.
“You go back in time and make decisions in time,” he said. “Did I think at the time with the information I had, did I make a legitimate decision, do the right thing? I did. I don’t think I’d go back and change it. When you see the letter from a specialist saying, ‘this is what is recommended,’ it’s so clear and concise, nd the authorities agree, ‘yes this should be done,’ I am not sure I am going to intervene. I have always said, ‘guys, you do not break the rules here whatever happens. I’m on record for saying, ‘there is a line. You can go up to that line. But you do not go over it. You do not cheat in this team in any way, shape or form.’”