Dave Brailsford, boss of Team Sky, appeared before the Culture, Media and Sport select committee yesterday to give evidence before MPs on the contents of a jiffy bag that was alleged to contain banned substances.
The jiffy bag has been at the centre of scrutiny over the past few months, with Sir Bradley Wiggins’ reputation being called into question after he reportedly used the contents of the “mysterious package” at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné.
The win at the stage race in June put him in prime position for the Tour de France that year, but pulled out due to a broken collarbone.
Earlier this month, it was reported Wiggins would be cleared by the UK Anti-Doping Agencyfor his apparent use of TUEs (Therapeutic Use Exemptions) at the stage race, but questions still raged about the contents of the mysterious package.
Simon Cope reportedly flew from the UK to Geneva in Switzerland, before handing the package to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman in La Toussuire, France.
But, after all that, it turns out the jiffy bag actually contained fluimicil, a drug that can be sold over the counter in France to treat chest infections and loosen mucus.
Brailsford said: “There are lessons to be learned. I have handled this situation very badly.
“But we have reviewed all our policies and how we use TUEs in the future and how do we gain and provide transparency while protecting competitive advantage.”
He explained: “It [the granting of a TUE] is very much driven by the medical team, a team doctor,” Brailsford told MPs.
“The rider has a condition. The doctor assessing it, forms a diagnosis and then looks at the criteria you have to hit to be given a TUE, bring the athlete back to a baseline level.”
You could say you handled it badly, Dave. For something relatively understandable, what was the need to hold tongue about it for so long if it was something as simple as a chest clearer.
Team Sky – the team of marginal gains, of science and innovation, and of squeaky clean racing – has had its reputation dented, not to mention Bradley Wiggins’.
This didn’t seem to affect him at the London Six Day, though, where the crowd were behind him the whole way.
Shane Sutton also appeared in front of the panel. The former technical director is still facing questions over his treatment of female athletes, particularly Jess Varnish who has launched fresh demands into the inquiry on the issue.
Unfortunately, this was not the subject of yesterday’s committee hearing, but he did give evidence before Brailsford, stating he arranged for the delivery of the package.
What is so odd about the whole “scandal” is the apparent unnecessary fuss over it. Sky applied for Wiggins’ TUEs in the right way, but it is why they remained silent on the issue for so long, and why it was made such a hush-hush topic that puzzles many.
It is true some TUEs have recently hit the news for their apparent enhancement effects: Triamcinolone was bounded around a lot; some insinuated testosterone was at the heart of the investigation; and Tennis star Maria Sharapova was given a two-year ban for taking Meldonium, a banned substance on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) list but was used by Sharapova (allegedly) to treat magnesium deficiency.
The difference for Sharapova, however, is that she failed to apply for a TUE for a drug she had taken since she was 16. As Brig Newspaper’s sports editor Craig Wright said, she did the sport equivalent of not checking her emails when the substance became banned in January.
TUEs may have had a lot of media coverage lately, but Sky’s silence was deafening.
For a long time, Sky had a clear no-injections policy, but that slowly dropped away. That squeaky clean sheen they were used to was a little splattered, so staying quiet about it seemed the right idea.
Look where it left them, all for an image reputation.