Nicole Cooke tells MPs that sexism is embedded in British Cycling
The former rider was also highly critical of the fight against doping and Ukad’s role
Former Team Sky rider Nicole Cooke has launched an attack on British Cycling and their handling of doping claims, as well as saying that sexism is embedded in the culture. Photo: Getty Images
Nicole Cooke has launched an excoriating attack on British Cycling, calling it sexist and unaccountable, and told MPs that she has no faith in the UK Anti-Doping Agency’s ability to investigate cases or the testing they conduct. Cooke, a former Olympic and world champion, also told the select committee of the department of culture, media and sport that she was “sceptical” of Team Sky’s claims to be the cleanest team in cycling given their response to the mysterious package delivered to Bradley Wiggins in 2011.
Cooke admitted that she was very surprised that Simon Cope, who was supposedly managing British Cycling’s women’s team in 2011, had taken a package to Team Sky in France without knowing what the contents were. “I do find it very surprising that Simon Cope transported something internationally without knowing what was in it,” she told MPs. “I find that astonishing and the fact that when British Cycling were asked for the records they weren’t able to find the documentation, I find that surprising.”
She also raised suspicions about Wiggins’ use of kenacort before the Tour de France and Giro D’Italia saying she was “sceptical” that it was the best treatment for asthma – before stressing its performance enhancing benefits. “Taking TUEs just before major events, it raises questions for me,” she added. “It makes me sceptical of what they have done.
“I find the stance of being the cleanest team, yet Dave Brailsford not being able to say what a rider took definitely makes it hard to back up that claim.”
Cooke also questioned the evidence given by Shane Sutton, the former head coach of Team Sky, that he had not been involved in Wiggins’ TUE process saying “that does not ring true with my experiences of coaches”.
In over an hour’s worth of evidence, Cooke was also fiercely critical of the fight against doping, saying that Ukad held a “chocolate sword” in its efforts to tackle drug taking in sport because of its lack of resources. However she also criticised the body, saying that during her career she had twice presented personal evidence to those responsible for fighting doping in the UK without getting any sort of satisfactory reply. “In the first case they stated they would do nothing with my evidence,” she said, “on the second they took no notes during the meeting”.
“I am not an expert on the legal framework under which Ukad management operate,” Cooke told MPs. “I can only state from my viewpoint they appear very keen to grasp any excuse not to do anything a clean athlete might view as of merit.
Cooke cited the lack of results in the investigation into the Linda McCartney team, which Ukad has been conducting for over four years as being particularly frustrating. “Both Simon Cope and Bradley Wiggins rode for this team,” she said. “Team Manager Julian Clark and rider Matt DeCanio state that doping was practised within the team. Other BC employees and ex employees involved in the team are current under-23 men’s road team manager Keith Lambert, ex team doctor Roger Palfreeman, who was doctor on the team, Max Sciandri and ex Team Sky manager Sean Yates who rode for a number of years on the same team as Lance Armstrong.
She added: “Apparently Ukad have testimony from three members of the team stating that riders used PEDs – As recently as June 2016 three of the British members of this team, Sean Yates, Max Sciandri and Matt Stephens, who is a commentator on the sport for Eurosport, all stated that Ukad had made no contact with them. Four years on – how patient do we have to be, or are Ukad doing nothing?”
Cooke also told MPs that British Cycling did very little to support female road riders during her career – pointing out numerous examples where men and women had been treated differently. She pointed out that before the 2008 World Championships, they downgraded their preparations for the event as there was no male rider who could effectively challenge for a world title. “At those world championships I found I could not get basic repairs completed for my bicycle by British Cycling mechanics,” she said. “After my win at the Beijing Olympics, British Cycling had bragged that the program of ‘marginal gains’ meant that they had produced a skin suit for me to use whilst most of my competitors rode in shorts and a jersey. I had insisted on this in 2000, against the wishes of the BC management, and now it was trumpeted as an advantage of their thoroughness.
When asked whether she felt sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling her reply was damning. “Yes I do.”
Cooke also expressed her deep concerns about UK Sport, the body that oversees the distribution of lottery money and governance of Olympic sports, saying it was ineffective and “provided no oversight and means of censure”.
Pooley told MPs that UK Sport repeatedly failed to hold senior figures of British Cycling to account. “This unequitable and discriminatory distribution of resource was only possible due to the failure of UK Sport to hold the senior management of BC to account. Throughout my whole career, BC senior management and the board could not have made it more clear to those they directed, that men and the actions and achievements of men, were all that mattered. This was obvious to all observers of the sport but UK Sport just stood by, watched and approved.
“My personal experience is that UK Sport actively resist attempts to be made accountable,” she added. “The only time I achieved a measure of satisfaction was when I engaged my MP in a serious matter and he raised it with the Minister for Sport, who in turn took it to the CEO of UK Sport.
“Such a resolution path is not practicable when asking why the national coach has refused to allow a camp to be run for the British women’s road team and the national women’s coach is instead directed to act as courier for his long-term friend and ex-professional team-mate Bradley Wiggins at Team Sky, or spend some weeks riding a moped in front of him as part of a training regimen, directed by the national coach.”