A UK Anti Doping investigation into a medical package delivered to Bradley Wiggins in June 2011 may struggle to uncover details about what the package contained, with UKAD lacking the powers to compel the doctor to speak.
British newspaper The Times has confirmed that there is no obligation on the doctor concerned, former Team Sky employee Richard Freeman, to divulge the nature of the package.
According to The Times, Freeman has not yet told figures at the top of British Cycling about the contents of the package. UKAD has confirmed to the newspaper that it has ‘no regulatory authority’ to compel him to give that information to its investigators.
The Daily Mail reported last week that Simon Cope flew to Switzerland from Britain and then drove with the package to La Toussuire in France, the finish of the final stage of the Critérium du Dauphiné. Wiggins won the race, marking him out as one of the big favourites for the Tour de France.
Cope, then a coach with British Cycling and now working for Team Wiggins, departed the same day and flew back to Britain.
The Daily Mail asked Team Sky, Wiggins and Dr Freeman’s current employers at British Cycling if the rider had a private session with Dr Freeman in the Team Sky bus.
All three refused to respond.
Dr Freeman had previously made headlines in September when it emerged that he was involved in seeking a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for Wiggins for triamcinolone acetonide. He is understood to have administered injections of the corticosteroid prior to the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France [Wiggins won the latter] and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
Wiggins has insisted the product was to treat allergies, and defended apparently contradictory statements in his 2012 autobiography My Time that he had never received injections.
When contacted by the Daily Mail last week, it was initially claimed that Cope had travelled to La Toussuire to see British rider Emma Pooley. However she was over 600 kilometres away racing in Spain, and has confirmed that she and Cope did not meet.
A second inconsistency emerged when Team Sky Principal Dave Brailsford told the Daily Mail that it was impossible that Freeman and Wiggins had a private consultation on the Team Sky bus because the bus had departed before Wiggins completed his podium duties.
Video of the final day of the race subsequently proved that version of events to be inaccurate.
In response to the matter, UKAD announced that it was carrying out an investigation. It said, ‘UKAD is investigating an allegation of wrongdoing in cycling. In order to protect the integrity of the investigation we will not comment further.’
The agency visited British Cycling’s base in the Manchester Velodrome last Friday as part of that investigation.
However, as Tuesday’s Times article points out, current rules prevent UKAD from being able to compel Freeman or, indeed, any other doctor from giving details about a patient due to medical confidentiality. It remains to be seen if Freeman will use this as justification not to speak further, or if he and Wiggins will waive that in the interests of transparency.
Team Sky has denied wrongdoing and said that it welcomes the UKAD investigation.
On Monday Graham McWilliam, Deputy Head of Sky News and Team Sky board chairman gave his backing.
“Keep your feet firmly on the ground and stay focused on what’s important,” he stated on Twitter, releasing a message which had been sent to the team at the weekend. “For Team Sky that’s racing and winning, the right way. That’s what we’ve done from the start and that’s what we’ll continue to do in future.
“I can assure you of Sky’s full and continued support. There is no equivocation on our part. We trust you, we believe in you and we remain as excited about this sport as ever.”