Cycling: Team Sky 'pushed rules to limit'

Chris Froome and Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford celebrating at this year's Tour de France. The British team have won four of the last five Tour de France titles.
Chris Froome and Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford celebrating at this year's Tour de France. The British team have won four of the last five Tour de France titles.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Chris Froome and Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford celebrating at this year's Tour de France. The British team have won four of the last five Tour de France titles.
Brian Cookson

While UCI chief says Wiggins' use of TUEs is legal, the drug has been abused before

LONDON • The pressure on Dave Brailsford has intensified after the president of cycling's governing body criticised how Team Sky have dealt with the fallout from Bradley Wiggins' controversial use of medical exemptions for a banned substance.

Brian Cookson, who has been in charge of the the International Cycling Union (UCI) since 2013, feels that Team Sky pushed "to the very limit of the rules" in applying for therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to enable Wiggins to have corticosteroid injections before three of the biggest races of his career.

Brailsford, the team principal, has repeatedly refused to reveal the contents of a package of medical supplies delivered to Richard Freeman, the doctor at the centre of the controversy over Wiggins' injections.

However, he admitted on Sunday that he had exacerbated the situation by giving inaccurate information over circumstances surrounding the delivery of the package.

"It's disappointing we're in a situation where these revelations are coming out," Cookson said.

STILL WITHIN THE RULES

We shouldn't be surprised when elite sports teams push to the very limit of the rules. Perhaps that's what happened here, but the rules appear to have been abided by.

BRIAN COOKSON, president of the International Cycling Union, weighing in on Bradley Wiggins' therapeutic use exemptions.

"The answers coming from certain individuals, certain witnesses, have seemed to make the situation less clear rather than more clear."

There is no doubt that the crisis of credibility engulfing Team Sky, which has led to calls for Brailsford's resignation, is causing considerable disquiet in the sport's corridors of power.

A strong anti-doping stance combined with their success in winning the Tour de France four times in the past five years - through Wiggins in 2012, then three times through Chris Froome - has helped the sport to take small steps of recovery after being tarnished by the culture of performance-enhancing drugs embodied by Lance Armstrong.

Since becoming its president in 2013, Cookson has been at the forefront of reforming the UCI's tainted image with regard to anti-doping.

Wiggins' three TUEs were granted to treat asthma and allergies before the Tour de France in 2011 and 2012, and the Giro d'Italia in 2013.

Wiggins was given injections of triamcinolone, a powerful corticosteroid that had previously been used by drug cheats in cycling.

"The aspiration at that time (of Team Sky's formation) was to have a team that had the highest possible standards of integrity and looked after the riders with the highest possible standards of due care," Cookson said. "So if things have slipped from that, I'll be surprised and disappointed."

Asked whether Team Sky had fallen below those standards in the light of recent revelations, Cookson said: "We shouldn't be surprised when elite sports teams push to the very limit of the rules.

"Perhaps that's what happened here, but the rules appear to have been abided by."

In terms of the substance used by five-time Olympic champion Wiggins, Cookson questioned whether TUEs should be granted for a drug that has been so clearly associated with abuse in the past.

"The issue of the substances issued to Wiggins appears to have been within the rules," he said.

"But I think there is an argument to be had about whether TUEs for that kind of substance are valid."

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2016, with the headline 'Team Sky 'pushed rules to limit''. Print Edition | Subscribe