Team Sky slammed in doping report
The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee have accused Team Sky of crossing an ethical line by allowing their cyclists to use drugs to enhance their performances. In a deeply embarrassing report, the DCMS accused Team Sky of using therapeutic use exemptions to bypass strict rules on banned substances.
The cycling world has once again been dragged into controversy over allegations that riders used therapeutic use exemptions incorrectly to allow them to take otherwise banned substances. The taking of these drugs gave riders an advantage as it enabled endurance athletes to lose fat rapidly while maintaining their muscle mass, which enables a higher power to weight ratio than would normally be achieved.
Could this be the end for Team Sky?
Whilst Team Sky have stated that they vigorously refute the report from the DCMS, there can be little doubt that the image of Team Sky has been badly tarnished and it is difficult to see how they can recover from these allegations.
Founded in 2010, Team Sky publicly declared they had a ‘zero tolerance’ rule on doping. For many, this was a new start and hope for a sport that had been badly burnt when American cycling hero Lance Armstrong admitted using performance enhancing drugs to cheat his way to seven consecutive Tour de France wins between 1999 to 2005.
Team Sky branded themselves as an ethical team and stated that use of drugs would be replaced by technology, science and hard-work which would provide the gains needed to win events. So, whilst no laws have been broken, a casual observer will struggle to see how taking a banned substance with a therapeutic use exemption is any different to taking the substance without one. With hindsight, the warning signs were there to be seen. In an interview with Dave Brailsford in 2011, the then 46-year-old performance director of British Cycling and general manager of Team Sky hinted at a softening of Team Sky’s zero tolerance rule.
Brailsford admitted that the firm’s philosophy towards past doping offenses had changed with regards to hiring backroom staff. Although he was quick to state that he felt there was no room in the sport for riders that take performance enhancing drugs, stating:
There’s no place for drugs in the sport and we like to think that we’re at the forefront of promoting clean cycling… That philosophy will always stay. If we thought it wasn’t possible then I’d be out. However, when you’re trying to lift performance, and you look at the staffing side, if you want experience of professional cycling you have to go back a long way to find people over 40 who haven’t been tainted in some way. You have your anti-doping policy but you need to weigh it up.– Dave Brailsford, Team Sky general manager
Bradley Wiggins fights to clear his name
One cyclist who came under direct criticism from the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee report was five-time Olympic champion and 2012 Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins. The committee singled out Wiggins in the report which said:
From the evidence that has been received by the committee regarding the use of triamcinolone at Team Sky during the period under investigation, and particularly in 2012, we believe that this powerful corticosteroid was being used to prepare Bradley Wiggins, and possibly other riders supporting him, for the Tour de France. The purpose of this was not to treat medical need, but to improve his power to weight ratio ahead of the race.– DCMS, Statement
Wiggins – More justice if I had murdered someone
Wiggins fervently denies the accusations and in a BBC interview claims that if he had committed murder, he would enjoy more rights than he does currently trying to establish his innocence. What will cause suspicion among sporting experts was the apparent loss, due to theft of a laptop which is claimed contained the only copy of Wiggins’ medical records. It sounds incredible that in 2014, no back-ups were made.
Another point that will be made is that Wiggins himself admits the substance he took can have the side effect of increasing performance but he states it is the intent that counts and he never intended for its use to enhance his performance.
One thing is for sure, this is a story that is unlikely to go away and cycling once again finds itself linked with cheating and deception. The feel-good factor is being drained from the sport.