Bradley Wiggins has described a parliamentary report that has heavily criticised him and the cycling team he used to lead as “sad”.
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee’s report, published yesterday, accused the 2012 Tour de France winner and other Team Sky riders of using the drug triamcinolone not for the stated purpose of treating asthma but because it helped them lose weight without compromising power.
It was revealed in 2015 by Russian computer hackers that Wiggins had applied for therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to have injections of the powerful corticosteroid before three of his biggest races, including the 2012 Tour.
That triggered a chain of events which took in a UK Anti-Doping investigation into a claim he was injected with triamcinolone at his last warm-up race before the 2011 Tour without permission — something he and Team Sky have always denied.
It was said instead he was given a legal decongestant via a nebulizer — a claim UKAD has been able to neither prove nor disprove because of a lack of medical records.
Based on new evidence from an unnamed source, as well as written testimony from Wiggins’ doctor Richard Freeman and his former coach Shane Sutton, the committee said it did not buy the legal decongestant story and believed the team broke its frequently-cited commitment to only use medication for medical purposes.
In a devastating comment, Sutton told the committee that “what Brad was doing was unethical but not against the rules”.
But in a statement, Wiggins said: “I find it so sad that accusations can be made, where people can be accused of things they have never done which are then regarded as facts.
“I strongly refute the claim that any drug was used without medical need. I hope to have my say in the next few days and put to my side across.”
“Strongly refute” is a phrase used twice by Team Sky in their response to the report, first in relation to the claim they used medication to enhance performance, and second in reply to the allegation a group of riders used triamcinolone to prepare for the 2012 Tour.
These responses are in contrast to the reaction from British Cycling. The governing body’s chief executive Julie Harrington described the report as “important, thorough, and timely” and welcomed its publication.
She listed the numerous changes British Cycling has already made to its medical policies, as well as making sure there are “clear boundaries” between the governing and the team its former performance director Sir Dave Brailsford set up in 2010.
She also confirmed it has asked the General Medical Council (GMC) to investigate the doctor at the centre of the triamcinolone affair, its former Great Britain cycling team doctor Dr Richard Freeman.
The chair of the DCMS committee wants the supply of performance-enhancing drugs to be criminalised in Britain, saying it would serve has a highly effective deterrent to would-be dopers.
He said: “Our key recommendation is the power to create a legal framework to really go after those who supply doping products to athletes.
“It would add more rigour to the system. There would be more responsibility on the part of doctors and teams to keep proper medical records, and there would be more surveillance of that.
“Take (Team Sky head) Sir Dave Brailsford’s evidence to us. When asked if riders other than Sir Bradley Wiggins could have been given triamcinolone, he said not to his knowledge. So he was not across what was going on in the team.
“Criminalising the suppliers would also help UKAD (UK Anti-Doping) in terms of the investigatory firepower it could call upon. We think it would help everybody.”
Olympic track cycling gold medallist Victoria Pendleton said her heart sank when she read the details of the MPs’ report.
Pendleton, a former Great Britain team-mate of Wiggins, said on BBC Radio 5 Live: “They are very shocking allegations. I must admit, when I saw them, my heart did sink.
“I’d like to kind of believe it’s not true, and until there’s any concrete evidence or proof I’m still going to try and be really optimistic about the fact that these athletes and the people that I know and the team have not crossed any boundaries. But this committee have decided that they have.”
But Pendleton revealed she remained a Wiggins supporter.
She said: “I know Bradley Wiggins through being in training with him, and he’s an incredibly talented athlete, and I’ve always been in awe of his physical ability. The way he pushes himself in training. I’m a Bradley Wiggins fan. What can I say?”
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