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Wiggins mystery package scandal: What we still don't know

Josh Cunningham
2 Mar 2017

It was a damning few hours for Team Sky and British Cycling at the Select Committee yesterday. But it's what we don't know that's troubling

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee continued its investigation into wrongdoing at Team Sky and British Cycling yesterday, and while there were some questions answered by those who sat before it - 'jiffy bag' deliverer Simon Cope and UKAD CEO Nicole Sapstead - it is what wasn't answered that's troubling. 

Can Team Sky and British Cycling be trusted?

The primary shadow that's been cast is that because of the ongoing saga, and the inability of those involved to prove its innocence, is that from this point onwards there will be a fundamental lack of trust in Team Sky and British Cycling

What was in the package?

'We cannot ascertain what was in the package,' Sapstead told MPs during yesterday's hearing, saying that Team Sky could provide UKAD with no paper trail or medical records about what the jiffy bag contained.

Bradley Wiggins and Dr Richard Freeman, who accepted the package, claimed during interviews with UKAD that it contained the decongestant Fluimicil, while Team Sky principal Dave Brailsford also said the same thing before the Select Committee in December.

Phil Burt, who put the package together, says he doesn't recollect what he put it in, and Simon Cope, who delivered it to Dr Freeman, said to the Committee yesterday that it was sealed when he picked it up and that he felt no need to ask what was inside. 

'We are not able to confirm or refute that it contained Fluimucil,' said Sapstead.

'We have asked for inventories and medical records, and we have not been able to ascertain that because there are no records. There are no records kept by Dr. Freeman. There are no records whatsoever of any treatment during the course of that event [the 2011 Dauphine, where Wiggins was racing when the package was sent].'

Why are there no records?

'Dr Freeman kept medical records on a laptop and he was meant to adhere to the Team Sky policy, that the other doctors followed, of uploading the medical records to a dropbox that all the doctors had access to,' said Sapstead.

But Dr. Freeman says that his laptop was stolen in 2014, which has been taken as some sort of excuse for the lack of records, but being able to access data uploaded to a cloud-based storage system would not suffer as a consequence of that. 

Why so much triamcinolone?

While there is no record of substances used during the 2011 Dauphine, Sapstead was able to confirm that UKAD's investigations into Wiggins revealed that large quantities of triamcinolone had been ordered by both Team Sky and British Cycling.

While legal with the acquisition of a TUE, its suitability for treatment of Wiggins's allergies has been questioned due to possible performance-enhancing benefits.  

Asked by the Committee chair about the amount ordered, and whether it reflected Wiggins's TUE prescription, Sapstead said that it didn't - that there was far more.

'You would either think that it was an excessive amount of triamcinolone ordered for one person or quite a few people had a similar problem.' 

Based on the above two questions, there are now people wondering - the Select Committee and UKAD included - if it was triamcinolone that the jiffy bag contained.

Wiggins had no valid TUE at the time the package was delivered, so if the package did contain triamcinolone then the consequences would be serious. 

Is Simon Cope's story suspicious?

Simon Cope delivered the package, but says he doesn't know what was in it and that there was no paperwork. He claims he was summoned to the race for logistical reasons, and was told to pick up the package on the way.

He booked checked-in hold luggage for a day trip, and says the package was put into this hold luggage. 

In a BBC interview yesterday, The Daily Mail's Matt Lawton said: ‘Simon Cope was asked to go and get the package and travel to Manchester to get the package on June 8th 2011. He didn’t arrive in La Toussuire in France for Freeman to treat Wiggins until June 12th.'

Speaking as if the package were to have contained Fluimicial, as Wiggins, Freeman and Brailsford claim, Lawton continued: 'What we have is a situation where he was given a medication that they could have nipped across a road in France to a pharmacy and bought.' 

But without the four-day delay.

Who else will be called before the Committee?

In a BBC interview yesterday, Victoria Derbyshire questioned Committee MP Chris Matheson about whether it would summon Wiggins to speak

'We haven’t yet, but we will keep all options open,’ he said.

Dr. Freeman was supposed to appear yesterday during the same hearing as Simon Cope and Nicole Sapstead, but wasn't present due to illness and declined to appear via a live video stream.

The Committee is writing to him for questions and has hinted that, similarly to Wiggins, the option to pursue further witnesses is possible.

What have Team Sky said?

'As we have said throughout, we are confident there has been no wrongdoing,' said Team Sky in a statement on Wednesday evening.

'We have worked hard to put the right governance structures in place, and we believe that our approach to anti-doping is rigorous and comprehensive. We continuously look to strengthen our own processes and systems, which have evolved since our formation.' 

Are UKAD satisfied? 

Sapstead hinted that UKAD's investigation into potential wrongdoing, which is separate from the Select Comittee's, has been problematic. 

'We don’t have the powers that the police have,' said Sapstead of UKAD's investigation. 'We don’t have the powers of search and entry or seizure or arrest. We have no powers to compile people to give us information, to talk to us.

'I think it’s involved well over 1,000 man hours,' she added. 'When you look at the resources that this has taken up, at the detriment of other activity at UK anti doping I might add, then I do not think that the resources we have at the moment, it’s not a sustainable model at all. If you were to say to me what do we want I would say I'd love my budget to be doubled.'

So with UKAD feeling the pinch after all of its investment into the case so far, it leaves a worrying question: Will we ever find out the truth? 

Which in turn brings us back to question one: Can Team Sky and British Cycling now ever be trusted?