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by Shane Stokes
January 13, 2018
Photography by Kristof Ramon
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Although UK Anti-Doping previously refused a freedom of information request from the BBC and others to provide the correspondence relating to the Bradley Wiggins ‘Jiffy Bag’ affair, letters between UKAD and British Cycling have emerged and show a high degree of criticism aimed at the governing body.
“Despite being aware of allegations in relation to the 2011 [Wiggins] package, British Cycling were slow to inform UKAD of these,” states UKAD’s Chief Executive Nicole Sapstead in a letter dated November 17, two days after UKAD said it was ending the Wiggins investigation, and released by the BBC on Friday.
“In fact, contact on this matter was made at UKAD instigation. Contact by British Cycling with some members of staff at British Cycling prior to informing UKAD could have potentially compromised our investigation.
“Under the UK National Anti-Doping policy by which British Cycling is bound, there is an obligation on an NGB (national governing body) of a sport to report any suspicions or allegations of doping.
“Failure to inform UKAD at the time that individuals within British Cycling became aware of such suspicions or allegations meant that this story had already reached a number of individuals before UKAD was informed, and thus able to act. That only hindered our efforts.
“We would suggest that all revenant staff are reminded of their obligations.”
Although the UKAD tone is measured, it is clear that the agency is not happy with British Cycling, and believes it is possible that any proper investigation of Wiggins, British Cycling and Team Sky over the delivery across borders of a mysterious package in June 2011 was hampered.
When it announced the end of its investigation in November, UKAD said publicly that despite “very significant effort” on its part, it was “unable to confirm or refute the account that the package delivered to Team Sky contained Fluimucil.”
That inability to determine the truth was caused largely by a lack of medical records. In the letter acquired by the BBC and subsequently made public by British Cycling on Friday, the federation was faulted by UKAD.
In that letter, UKAD lays out the errors and omissions made by British Cycling.
It highlighted ten shortcomings, which are listed as follows:
1. “We found no formal processes or procedures in place to record the purchase, use, or disposal of pharmaceutical products and medical supplies, ie a medical stock-taking system (except for invoices kept by the finance department).
2. “There was no process to record what products or supplies were stored by British Cycling at the velodrome or elsewhere, and what was checked in and out of the medical room on site.”
3. “There were no records of pharmaceutical/medical supply packages sent by British Cycling to teams competing at events at home or abroad.
4. The medical room at the Manchester Velodrome was chaotic and disorganised. There was no apparent filing system, and papers were just piled up in cupboards and filing cabinets.
5. Electronic medical records were not kept by British Cycling nor was there any back-up system.
6. From some of the Doping Control Forms inspected there is no recording of medication for substances for which UKAD became aware were being administered to riders, albeit legitimately (i.e not prohibited).
7. We found little, if any, evidence of supervision or executive oversight of the team doctors (Dr Freeman and Dr Steve Peters) by British Cycling
8. There are considerable periods of time to which it is impossible to ascertain if the staff (including medical staff) were operating as members of British Cycling or Team Sky, with clear instances of British Cycling staff being used for Team Sky purposes (e.g. Simon Cope being used to transport the package for Team Sky). In fact, there were some staff who, at a point in time, were simultaneously employed by both British Cycling and Team Sky.
9. There were examples where British Cycling pharmaceutical and medical supplies were paid for by Team Sky and vice versa.
10. Despite being aware of the allegations in relation to the 2011 ‘package,’ British Cycling was slow to inform UKAD of these. In fact, contact on this matter was made at UKAD’s instigation. Contact by British Cycling with some members of staff at British Cycling, prior to informing UKAD, could have potentially compromised our investigation with the possible loss of data evidence.
The long list included recommendations to British Cycling: these included proper management of medical supplies, including the procedures and processes set out by the GMC [British General Medical Council], plus a recommendation that riders and support staff “be reminded of their responsibility to complete the Doping Control Form correctly and fully.”
UKAD also said that there “should be a clear delineation between those members of staff acting for British Cycling and those acting for Team Sky.”
While the letter’s criticisms are muted, it is clear that UKAD was greatly frustrated by British Cycling’s actions and the related inability to clearly determine what was in the package delivered from BC’s medical storeroom to France via Switzerland.
Despite this serious nature of the communication from UKAD, the date of the response made public on Friday by British Cycling shows that it took almost a month for BC’s Chief Executive to respond.
In that December 14 letter, Julie Harrington made a Mea Culpa of sorts on behalf of the federation.
“UKAD’s findings represent an organisation and culture that, despite delivering on the world stage, did not meet the high standards to which British Cycling today holds itself.”
She said that a number of measures had been implemented, including a review of the medical services completed in June 2017 and accepted by BC. Harrington said that the recommendations handed down by that review were being acted upon.
She also acknowledged that the previously close or overlapping relationships between British Cycling and Team Sky had been separated. “I can assure you that there are clear boundaries and distinctions between our two organisations: no one is simultaneously employed by British Cycling and Team Sky, and we each have our own practices in place for managing athlete records.”
Harrington ended her letter by saying that BC had ongoing support for the work done by UKAD, and that the federation was committed to earning and retaining “the trust of competitors and fans.”
Although UKAD stated in November that its investigation had to be ended due to a lack of medical records, it said then that it could be reopened if more information came to light. The GMC is still looking into the matter, and could in theory acquire more information helpful to the previous UKAD enquiry.
In the meantime, Team Sky is under further pressure with the news that its current team leader Chris Froome provided a urine sample during the Vuelta a Espana that had twice the permitted maximum level of salbutamol.
Click through here to read the letter from UKAD to British Cycling, here to see the response, and here to read the BBC’s take on the matter.