Simon Cope, the British Cycling coach at the centre of the controversy over a mystery package delivered to Team Sky's Bradley Wiggins in 2011, has insisted "hand on heart" that he had no idea what was in it, as he was summoned to appear before a Parliamentary select committee next month.
Also appearing on February 22nd will be the UK Anti-Doping chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, and Dr Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky doctor who now works for British Cycling. Freeman was said by the former technical director Shane Sutton to have given the contents of the package to Wiggins at the end of the Critérium du Dauphiné six years ago.
When Dave Brailsford, the Team Sky principal, appeared before the committee in December he said Dr Freeman had told him the package contained the decongestant Fluimucil. Cope, who was the women's road race team manager in 2011, told Cycling News that he did not know what was in the package, which he transported in June that year from Manchester to France.
He said: “Hand on heart, hand on my kids’ hearts, I do not know what was in there. It’s not for me to ask. People ask ‘Why didn’t you?’, but why would I ask? I trust who I work for. There’s never been any inkling of anything untoward so why would you question it. Of course I’ll go. I don’t want to go because I don’t see what I can add. I don’t know what was in there and also there’s some fact … I wasn’t the women’s coach. The coach and the manager are two different things. I was the women’s road manager. But yes, I would go.”
Damian Collins, the chair of the culture, media and sport select committee that also this month heard from the Olympic gold medallist Nicole Cooke, who heavily criticised Team Sky and British Cycling, said there was "considerable public interest" in the Ukad investigation.
“The committee has been told by both British Cycling and Team Sky that they have supplied all the information they have relating to this investigation to Ukad. However, we need to know if they have received documentary evidence which confirms what was in the package that was delivered by Simon Cope to Team Sky,” said Collins.
“Without this evidence, I am concerned about how it is possible for the anti-doping rules to be policed in an appropriate manner, if it is not possible to review the records of medicines prescribed to riders by the team doctors.”
In a statement, the committee also said that Sapstead had confirmed she would be able to discuss the investigation and would have no objection to Cope and Freeman also answering its questions. In addition to Ukad’s investigation into the mystery package, a UK Sport investigation into allegations of bullying and sexism is also due to report imminently.
Cope, Freeman and Sapstead were called to appear as the US current affairs programme 60 Minutes aired allegations about the use of motors in the peloton during the 2015 Tour de France. Sunday's TV programme, aired by CBS, featured Istvan Varjas, a Hungarian mechanic, who claimed that on the day before the 2015 Tour de France he had delivered motorised bikes to a "locked storage room" in Beaulieu-sur-Mer on the French Riviera. He did not reveal who had requested the bikes. The mechanic told the programme makers that a motorised bicycle could be identified because the modified rear wheel would be 800g heavier than a regular one.
CBS did not detail how it had obtained information but claimed that Team Sky’s time-trial bicycles during the Tour were approximately 800g heavier than those used by other teams.
A Team Sky spokesman told the programme that “during a time-trial stage bikes might be heavier to allow for better aerodynamic performance” but it is understood that no specific allegations were put to the team. The allegations of motorised doping are not new and Brailsford spoke about them last year.
“Finding an engine in a bike is a pretty simple thing to do in this day and age,” Brailsford said. “The technology used to beam the [TV]pictures up to the satellite is a lot more complex, and used on a day-to-day basis, than finding a motor in a bike. You just need the right tech to find it. You’ve either got an engine in your bike or you haven’t.”
“[Chris Froome’s] bike has been tested more than everyone else’s, we get tested every day and we actually had an email from the UCI saying thank you for being the most cooperative team out of everybody when it comes to bike checks and mechanical checking,” Brailsford added. “If someone is stupid enough come here [to the Tour de France] with a motor in their bike for sure they will get caught.”
Team Sky were second in the team time-trial at the 2015 Tour de France and after the stage, their bikes were checked by the International Cycling Union (UCI) for motors – none were found.