A 14-month investigation by United Kingdom Anti-Doping into allegations of wrongdoing at British Cycling and Team Sky has ended with no charges being brought against either organisation due to a “lack of contemporaneous evidence”.
An inquiry was launched in September 2016 after British newspaper the Daily Mail reported a mystery package had been delivered to Richard Freeman, the doctor of now retired Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins, then a Sky rider.
The package, reportedly delivered at the end of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race in France, was alleged to have contained a banned corticosteroid, but Freeman insisted it was the decongestant fluimucil, a legal substance.
United Kingdom Anti-Doping (UKAD) said that despite conducting interviews with 37 current and former staff at both British Cycling and Team Sky, it had been unable to prove or disprove Freeman’s claims.
UKAD said the investigation would now be closed unless new evidence came to light.
“Due to the lack of contemporaneous evidence, UKAD has been unable to definitively confirm the contents of the package,” the body said on Wednesday.
“The significant likelihood is that it is now impossible to do so.”
An internet hack believed to have been carried out by the Russian Fancy Bears group revealed Wiggins had medical exemptions to use the banned drug triamcinoline at the 2011 Tour de France, and again at the 2012 Tour de France and 2013 Giro d’Italia. He became the first Briton to win the Tour de France in 2012.
The multiple Olympic gold medallist, together with Sky, has always denied any wrongdoing but the Fancy Bears revelations led to a wider debate about whether the medical exemption process in cycling was being abused.
During the investigation it emerged that there was no written record of what the package contained, with Freeman saying his lone set of notes had disappeared when a laptop was stolen while he was on holiday and that no back-up copy existed.
The UKAD inquiry also raised questions about the cross-over of personnel between British Cycling and Team Sky.
– ‘Serious concern’ –
UKAD cannot punish British Cycling for a lack of medical records as this does not count as an anti-doping violation, but it said it would co-operate with any future inquiry by the General Medical Council, which regulates the conduct of doctors in Britain.
“Our investigation was hampered by a lack of accurate medical records being available at British Cycling,” UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said Wednesday.
“This is a serious concern… In this case the matter was further complicated by the cross over between personnel at British Cycling and Team Sky.”
Team Sky, whose rider Chris Froome win a fourth Tour de France title this year, responded to UKAD’s announcement Wednesday by saying: “We are pleased that UK Anti-Doping have concluded their investigation and that they will not be taking any further action.
“We have always maintained that there was no wrongdoing and we have co-operated fully with UK Anti-Doping over the last year.”
British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington accepted the UKAD findings revealed “an organisation and culture that, despite delivering on the world stage, did not meet the high standards that British Cycling today holds itself to”.
Harrington added that while the partnership between British Cycling and Team Sky had been “a positive force for cycling in this country”, there had been some “blurring of the boundaries between the two” which “led to some failings in the way that processes and people were managed”.
She said that no-one was now simultaneously employed by both organisations and they each had their own procedures for managing medical records.-Agence France-Presse