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Ex-Team Sky rider Josh Edmondson speaks about secretly injecting vitamins and using Tramadol

Joseph Delves
17 Mar 2017

Admission raises questions about rider welfare, as Edmondson describes battle with drug abuse and depression

Josh Edmondson, the 24-year-old former Team Sky rider, has spoken about how the pressure of life as a professional rider led him to inject himself with a cocktail of legal vitamin supplements in an attempt to stay in form. In an interview with the BBC the rider who raced for Team Sky in 2013 and 2014 also described how he was prescribed Tramadol independently of the team.

In the run up to the 2014 Vuelta a Espana, Edmondson found himself using the drug with increasing frequency. His relationship with the drug, along with losing his spot at Sky would eventually result in a period of depression, during which the young rider claims he didn’t leave the house for months at a time.

Team Sky, along with the UCI, have a strict no needles policy, although the vitamins that Edmondson procured were entirely legal. Edmonson detailed how in an attempt to stay in form with a view to being selected for the 2014 Vuelta he travelled from his base in Nice to Italy to buy the vitamins and supplements along with equipment for their intravenous injection.

'I bought butterfly clips, the syringes, the carnitine, folic acid, 'TAD', damiana compositum, and vitamin B12, and I'd inject that two or three times a week maybe.'

Edmondson described the effects as very noticeable, particularly those of the carnitine, which helped him lose weight.

Although the supplements and vitamins he injected were legal to use, Edmondson described the temptation to dope.

'I was tempted to. I think everyone is. Especially when you know that other people are.'

He said the injections were his 'way of closing the gap a little bit' on the doped riders. Discussing how he would inject himself he talked about the potential danger of giving himself an embolism.

'It dawned on me as I was doing it how extreme it was.'

Also independently of Team Sky’s doctors Edmondson had been prescribed Tramadol and quickly found himself using the opioid drug with increasing frequency.

'When you’re young and you’re facing some kind of depression and it might be linked to a drug, you are definitely in denial about what that problem is,' he said.

'I saw it as the stress of the job and training hard. I wouldn’t ever have acknowledged that Tramadol was doing it.'

Things came to a head when another Team Sky rider that Edmondson was lodging with found his vitamins and equipment and reported it to the team.

Questions have subsequently been raised as to why the team didn’t report the rider to the authorities for contravention of the UCI’s no needles policy.

Former Team Sky head of medicine Dr Steve Peters explained that it was his opinion that given that no instances of doping had been found, and taking into account Edmonson’s precarious mental state, it wouldn’t have been in the rider’s best interests to do so, given his duty of care as a doctor.

'We had to make a judgment call which was difficult… We could have reported it,' Dr Peters said.

'We could have made a different decision. We'll never know in hindsight. I suppose if I'm looking at safety issues I did think there was a really big risk this lad would be pushed over the edge. I stand by my decision.'

The doctor continued, 'I think I'd definitely have told them if I thought this young man was trying to cheat, but I don't think he was doing that. I think it was a panic reaction.

'He is making very poor decisions because he is not well, and therefore we need to treat him first of all and then get to the bottom of it. But actually to put him through some kind of investigation or disciplinary at that point could've been very serious and damaged this lad's health.'

Dr Peters took responsibility for the team’s decision not to go public with their rider’s admission.

Edmondson claims he did tell senior management he had injected at the time. Responding to why he didn’t seek help himself and instead waited until the team was alerted by his housemate, the rider said, 'I was just really worried how it would look and it was a naive thing to do because I know now that if I'd gone to someone, like Dr Freeman or Wiggo or anyone really, someone I'd trusted, they would have helped me, and there'd have been no problem.'