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by Shane Stokes
September 18, 2016
Photography by Kristof Ramon
Seeking to explain the contradiction between a 2012 claim that he hadn’t used needles in cycling and this week’s leaked Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) proving he had received injections of a corticosteroid in 2011, 2012 and 2013, Bradley Wiggins has issued a statement on the matter.
The controversy arose on Wednesday when Russian hackers published TUEs taken from the World Anti Doping Agency. Wiggins’ TUEs prior to the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia showed that he had received intramuscular injections of Triamcinolone acetonide.
The substance is banned as it can enhance performances. However he received a pass after doctors said he had allergies.
In his autobiography My Time, published after his 2012 Tour de France win, Wiggins went on record about needles in sport.
“They [the UCI] had brought in a needle ban, forbidding the use of injections across the board, even for substances used for recovery such as sugars and vitamins,” he stated then. “British Cycling have always had a no-needle policy, it’s been a mainstay of theirs; so it was something I grew up with as a bike rider. In British cycling culture, at the word ‘needle’ or the sight of one, you go ‘Oh shit’, it’s a complete taboo.
“When I was a kid we used to play around in a car park where there were always needles on the floor from heroin addicts who used to go and shoot up – orange needles – so from a young age my mother and others would tell us, ‘Stay away from those needles, don’t go near them, don’t touch them.’ In France you can buy them over the counter; it’s a different culture. Here you buy vitamin C effervescent from Boots, rather than getting it through a syringe.
“I’ve never had an injection, apart from I’ve had my vaccinations, and on occasion I’ve been put on a drip, when I’ve come down with diarrhoea or something or have been severely dehydrated.”
Given that the apparently unequivocal statement seemed so at odds with his injections prior to three key events, comment was sought from Wiggins.
A spokesman issued a statement on his behalf on Saturday.
“Brad’s passing comment regarding needles in the 2012 book referred to the historic (illegal) practice of intravenous injections of performance enhancing substances which was the subject of the 2011 UCI law change,” said that spokesperson.
“The triamcinolone injection that is referred to in the WADA leaks is an intramuscular treatment for asthma, is fully approved by the sport’s governing bodies and Brad stands by his comment concerning the use of illegal intravenous needle injections.”
The contradiction was highlighted by South African exercise physiologist Dr. Jeroen Swart on Saturday, who spoke at length to CyclingTips on the matter. Swart had previously defended Team Sky against those claiming its performances were suspicious, but he admitted that this week’s events were cause for concern.
“Although this isn’t any evidence of any doping practice, it just is a little too far in terms of my comfort with respect to the ethical boundaries of the sport. That is really what it comes down to,” he said.
“…In terms of them portraying the image of the team as being squeaky clean, cleaner than the rest, leave no stone unturned to do the right thing, this doesn’t fit with that.
“Wiggins himself in his autobiography said he had only ever received an injection for an immunisation and some drips. You are not likely to forget an intramuscular injection before every major Grand Tour that you have competed in for the win.”
Swart also noted that one of Team Sky’s doctors at the time was Geert Leinders. Leinders was ultimately given a lifetime ban for his administering of doping substances to riders at the Rabobank squad, the team he was with prior to going to Team Sky.
One of the riders there, Michael Rasmussen, said that Leinders had used claims of allergies as a cover for getting a TUE and then administered corticosteroids to his riders. This was done for a performance-enhancing purpose.
Asked about Leinders’ possible involvement in Wiggins’ TUE, his spokesman denied this was the case.
“Brad has no direct link to Geert Leinders. Leinders was ‘on race’ doctor for Team Sky for short period and so was occasionally present at races dealing with injuries sustained whilst racing such as colds, bruises etc,” he said.
“Leinders had no part in Brad’s TUE application; Brad’s medical assessments from 2011-2015 were processed by the official Team Sky doctor, and were verified by independent specialists to follow WADA, UCI and BC guidelines.”
Team Sky has not yet commented on the matter.
According to the Daily Mail, a spokesman for the team refused to respond to the question of whether Leinders was involved in the process of securing exemptions for Wiggins. The individual cited medical confidentiality.