Ten key questions Team Sky must be asked about doping
Public needs to know if British Cycling followed letter and spirit of anti-doping code
Dave Brailsford and Bradley Wiggins: “What was the exact process that led to Sir Bradley Wiggins being given three injections of triamcinolone?” Photograph: Scott Mitchell/teamsky.com via Getty Images
He was discussing specifically why he was swerving riders tainted by doping, but his words carried a deeper message: others might sprint into grey and black to be successful but Sky’s aim was to be straight as well as successful.
There was always a contrast between the public projection of the Sky image – marginal gains, no stone left unturned, glory upon glory – and the apparent organisational chaos beneath. But when Brailsford and his former right-hand man Shane Sutton face MPs on Monday the questions will cut to a more fundamental issue: whether British Cycling and Team Sky followed the letter and spirit of the anti-doping code.
The stakes are dramatically high. Brailsford must realise that this is not the time for pseudo-scientific waffle but hard facts. MPs need to toss any fanboyism into the nearest dustbin and concentrate on sustained and intense scrutiny.
In that spirit, here are 10 questions Brailsford and Sutton should be asked when they appear in front of the culture, media and sport select committee:
1) Have either of them ever used banned drugs?
This would be the equivalent of a lie-detector baseline. Their openness – or nervousness – will give MPs a sense of how much they will cooperate.
2) Have British Cycling or Team Sky riders ever used cortisone out of competition?
This is legal and does not require a therapeutic use exemption certificate. However, it does allow riders to reduce weight while maintaining power – the Holy Grail of cycling – and ventures into ethical boundaries. After all, the Mouvement pour un Cyclisme Credible, a voluntary group of teams which Sky has refused to join, has requested that the UCI and World Anti-Doping Agency ban the use of corticosteroids.
3) Have riders ever been given powerful pain medication, such as tramadol, before races?
The former Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke has alleged he was offered tramadol by Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman while representing Great Britain at the 2012 Road Cycling World Championships and that it was “offered freely around”.
4) Was there ever overt pressure to obtain results – and how did Sky get successful?
Sky were extremely poor prior to 2010, their first season, despite Brailsford unveiling a battery of marginal gains beforehand. So what changed? And was Brailsford or Sutton ever told “the poor performances cannot continue, we need to win or the money will be removed and sponsorship withdrawn”?
5) Did Team Sky know about Geert Leinders’s past when it hired him as a freelance consultant in 2011 and 2012?
Leinders was banned for life last year for multiple doping violations while at Rabobank between 1996 and 2009, including possession, trafficking and administering banned substances including EPO, testosterone and corticosteroids. However, there were plenty of suspicions before then. What happened to Sky’s due diligence on him, especially given there were riders in the team who had worked with him before?
6) What was the exact process that led to Sir Bradley Wiggins being given three injections of triamcinolone, a powerful corticosteroid, just before the Tour de France in 2011 and 2012 and the GiroD’Italia in 2013?
The committee should demand the names of those involved and also ask why Wiggins did not feel the need to take the drug before the 2009 or 2010 Tours. In his autobiography, Wiggins had insisted he was in the form of his life and in good health – only to claim earlier this year that he was, in fact, “really struggling” with pollen allergies.
7) What was in the medical package taken by British Cycling doctor Simon Cope to Team Sky on the final day of the 2011 Dauphiné Libéré?
Incredibly we still do not know, despite British Cycling insisting that the package did not include triamcinolone. If it knows that piece of information, surely it can say what is in the package?
8) Why did Brailsford initially tell the Daily Mail the courier was there to meet Emma Pooley, who was 700 miles away?
Again, it seems incredible that Brailsford, that master and commander of British Cycling and Team Sky for so long, would have got this wrong.
9) What was the nature of Sutton’s consultancy role with Sky while he was technical director of British Cycling?
What exactly was he doing? Are the reports of a six-figure sum accurate? And did it take away from his duties at British Cycling, for which he was paid from the public purse?
10) The former British Cycling performance director Peter Keen says the two organisations have become too close? Is he right?
It is worth recalling the words of Rod Carr, the chair of UK Sport. “If there were issues in British Cycling, it fundamentally undermines everything,” he said. “If people don’t believe what they’re seeing on the track, if things are getting done in a way we as the public think is untoward, it’s really bad news.”
As he prepares to face the MPs, maybe Brailsford should reflect on these words, exactly a year ago this month. “There has been a growing call for transparency and that is what we are trying to embrace,” he said.
There is still time to live up to those ideals. Time, however, is rapidly running out.