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Nicole Cooke: ‘The wrong people fighting the wrong war, in the wrong way, with the wrong tools’

Joseph Delves
24 Jan 2017

Nicole Cooke has delivered her evidence to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry

Olympic and World Road Race Champion Nicole Cooke has slammed cycling in the UK as a ‘sport run by men, for men’ while characterising British Cycling as an organisation ‘not responsible to anyone other than itself’. 

Cooke was appearing in front of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into 'Combatting Doping in Sport' which has also been examining the treatment of women in cycling.

Cooke’s evidence describes a culture of interlinked and seemingly conflicting loyalties between Team Sky and British Cycling’s Performance Programme.

It was this culture she claimed which allowed Simon Cope, the courier of the infamous package to Team Sky, to be directed by his managers at British Cycling to spend several days travelling ‘to urgently deliver a package, the contents of which he claims he is ignorant of’ to Team Sky, despite his publicly funded position as British Women’s Road Team Coach.

Cooke believes a lack of oversight exists due to there being no single body to ‘which an effective appeal can be made’ and the fact that at the time both Sir Dave Brailsford, and the national coach, Shane Sutton, were both working for Team Sky while also occupying key positions at British Cycling.

With publicly funded staff delivering mysterious jiffy bags for Team Sky, Cooke characterised the relationship between them and British Cycling as representing a conflict of interest, with women’s cycling being seriously shortchanged.

Cooke explained that British Cycling had failed to develop a governance structure to keep up with the vast quantities of public money now directed towards it and instead allowed staff to pursue personal projects, often at the expense of a more equal distribution of funding towards female athletes.

‘At fault are those who designed the programme. “Team Sky” and the simultaneous use of people also receiving a full wage from the public purse at BC, was all about optimising the road team for London 2012 and getting a British rider to win the Tour de France.

'Of course they really did not mean any British rider because I had already won the Tour twice. They meant a British rider who counts in their eyes and that meant a man.’

In comparison to the support enjoyed by the men’s team Cooke tells how she was unable to get basic repairs done by British Cycling mechanics and even had to provide her own skinsuit.

In the year that Cope delivered the package to Team Sky, British Cycling failed to organise even a single training camp for the women's team in the run up to the World Championships that year.

She also damned the fight against the misuse of performance enhancing drugs as ‘the wrong people fighting the wrong war, in the wrong way, with the wrong tools’.

With relation to the famous jiffy bag she said that Cope’s claim not to know what was in the package was ‘astonishing’ and that British Cycling didn’t have a record of its content ‘surprising’.

Cooke described having required only four therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) in 12 years of racing, an unusually small number compared to the average male professional cyclist.

At one point she was forced to use the same steroid, triamcinolone, as Bradley Wiggins is now known to have been prescribed, as an alternative to knee surgery, although withdrew from racing for the seven following months.

She described having discussed and noticed its performance enhancing properties during that period.

Cooke says she encountered doping throughout her career yet claims that when she presented evidence to UK Anti-Doping she was roundly ignored, eventually resorting to writing recorded delivery letters to Dick Pound, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency instead.

She described herself as having ‘no faith in the actions in support of investigations conducted by UKAD or the testing they conduct.’

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