Brailsford finally discloses nature of 2011 Sky mystery package for Wiggins, yet questions linger

Don’t miss out on the latest CyclingTips updates.

0
Jump To Comments

Ten and a half weeks after it emerged that a British Cycling employee brought a package to Team Sky’s doctor at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, Team Principal Dave Brailsford has finally confirmed the nature of the substance concerned.

Speaking at a Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing, Brailsford told those questioning him that the product was Fluimucil.

“[Team doctor Richard] Freeman told me it was Fluimucil for a nebuliser,” he stated. “That was what was in the package. It was what Dr Freeman told me.”

Fluimucil is a decongestant used for clearing mucus. It is not a banned substance.

On October 6 the Daily Mail newspaper reported that British Cycling employee Simon Cope had travelled to France via Switzerland on June 12 2011, the final day of the Critérium du Dauphiné. This was a Tour de France preparation event won by Sky’s Bradley Wiggins.

It stated that Cope made the trip at the request of Team Sky and Freeman, and that after hiring a car at Geneva Airport, he drove across the border and delivered a package to the team at La Toussuire. The suggestion was that Freeman and Wiggins then had a private session on the team bus after the final stage of the race.

Brailsford initially disputed this chain of events, telling the Daily Mail that Cope had gone to La Toussuire to see the British female competitor Emma Pooley. However Pooley was almost 700 miles away from there that day, riding the Emakumeen Bira in Spain.

He also told the newspaper that the team bus had left the location before Wiggins returned from podium duties, and that the driver, the team’s Head of Athlete Performance Tim Kerrison and Head of Performance Operations Rod Ellingworth all vouched for this.

However video footage from the end of the race showed this was not the case, with Wiggins being interviewed post-podium at the vehicle.

The discrepancies, the questions about the nature of the package plus an earlier furore about Wiggins receiving controversial injections of the corticosteroid triamcinolone led to pressure on Brailsford and the team and, in turn, to Monday’s Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing.

During the hearing Brailsford was asked why Cope was sent on such a long trip with a product which was available for less than ten euro in multiple French pharmacies.

“The sole purpose of Simon Cope’s visit wasn’t to bring this product,” he answered. “He was on his way anyway and brought it down with him. He has his own stores [of medicines at the British Cycling base] in Manchester so brought it with him.”

Brailsford was asked if it would not have been easier to have asked the race doctor for the product. “It wasn’t convoluted, it was the easiest possible way,” he said.

However, while he maintained that no wrongdoing had been committed, he conceded that he had not handled the whole situation well.

“With all these situations there are always lessons to be learned. You have got to start with yourself,” he said. “I have looked at myself long and hard in the mirror and thought about this very, very carefully in terms of how I have handled personally the situation.

“I think I could have done a lot better, quite frankly. I’d like to think that in performance terms we did pretty well, but on this occasion, in the way I managed this, I think start with myself first and not look at anybody else.

“We run a fantastic operation, we have got fantastic people, they are of the highest standards, they have got great integrity. And they don’t quite frankly deserve to have this shadow cast over them. I must say that for each and every one of them on this team, it has not been easy.

“There are people who are performing fantastically well who don’t deserve any shadow whatsoever and it pains me, really, that they have had to had any doubt cast over them because of my actions. That is going to stay with me for a long time, I can assure you.”

He added that lessons had been learned, policies had been reviewed and that the team will be as open and transparent as possible in the future.

Also interviewed at the Culture, Media and Sport select committee hearing were British Cycling president Bob Howden, chair of the British Cycling ethics commission Dr George Gilbert and former Team Sky coach Shane Sutton. They spoke earlier than Brailsford and said they were unable to confirm the nature of the package.

Howden and Gilbert said that UK Anti Doping had asked British Cycling not to talk about the issue due to the ongoing investigation. They said they were surprised to hear that UKAD had told the committee hearing that details of the package could now be made public.

Sutton, who acted as Wiggins’ coach for many years, said that he had no idea what it contained. He said that even though he authorised Cope to travel to France with the package, he didn’t ask what it was. He did confirm that it was destined for the Dauphiné winner and future Tour de France champion.

Sutton also said that despite his coaching role with Wiggins, he didn’t communicate with the rider about which products he used, leaving that up to team doctors.

“It was my job to get Wiggins fit and healthy … given the nature of the team and the way it has been set up the doctors would adhere to policy,” he insisted.

Asked about this subsequently, Brailsford appeared to indicate it was unusual that a coach wouldn’t know what medical products an athlete was taking, unless those products were personal in nature.

Despite the testimony, it is likely that questions will continue to be asked about the delivery. Providing UKAD carries out its ongoing inquiry thoroughly, it will request proof that Fluimucil was indeed the product in question, rather than being given as an innocent explanation. It may also look for evidence that Cope was indeed travelling on other business.

Otherwise, questions will continue to be asked as to why Team Sky didn’t simply purchase the product in France.

Journalists and others will also likely continue to ask why Brailsford didn’t make the substance known immediately, and why his initial explanations were untrue.

The team may have now pledged transparency, but it had done so anyway from its inception and has been anything but clear for weeks.

Editors' Picks