Sir Bradley Wiggins 'sad' over damning drugs report

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The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee’s report, published on Monday, accused the 2012 Tour de France winner and other Team Sky riders of using the drug triamcinolone not for the stated purpose of treating asthma but because it helped them lose weight without compromising power.

It was revealed in 2015 by Russian computer hackers that Wiggins had applied for therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) to have injections of the powerful corticosteroid before three of his biggest races, including the 2012 Tour.

That triggered a chain of events which took in a UK Anti-Doping investigation into a claim he was injected with triamcinolone at his last warm-up race before the 2011 Tour without permission – something he and Team Sky have always denied.

It was said instead he was given a legal decongestant via a nebulizer – a claim UKAD has been able to neither prove nor disprove because of a lack of medical records.

Based on new evidence from an unnamed source, as well as written testimony from Wiggins’ doctor Richard Freeman and his former coach Shane Sutton, the committee said it did not buy the legal decongestant story and believed the team broke its frequently-cited commitment to only use medication for medical purposes.

In a devastating comment, Sutton told the committee that “what Brad was doing was unethical but not against the rules”.

But in a statement, Wiggins said: “I find it so sad that accusations can be made, where people can be accused of things they have never done which are then regarded as facts.

“I strongly refute the claim that any drug was used without medical need. I hope to have my say in the next few days and put to my side across.”

“Strongly refute” is a phrase used twice by Team Sky in their response to the report, first in relation to the claim they used medication to enhance performance, and second in reply to the allegation a group of riders used triamcinolone to prepare for the 2012 Tour.

These responses are in contrast to the reaction from British Cycling. The governing body’s chief executive Julie Harrington described the report as “important, thorough and timely” and welcomed its publication.

She listed the numerous changes British Cycling has already made to its medical policies, as well as making sure there are “clear boundaries” between the governing and the team its former performance director Sir Dave Brailsford set up in 2010.

She also confirmed it has asked the General Medical Council (GMC) to investigate the doctor at the centre of the triamcinolone affair, its former Great Britain cycling team doctor Dr Richard Freeman.

But British Cycling was not the only governing body to be censured by the committee, as UK Athletics was also rapped on the knuckles for its record-keeping.

This was related to an infusion of the nutrient L-carnitine Sir Mo Farah received before his London Marathon debut in 2014. While its use is controversial, it is not banned, providing no more than 50 millilitres are infused in a six-hour period.

The treatment was administered by UKA’s then medical chief Dr Rob Chakraverty, who is now the England football team’s lead doctor, and he told the committee he gave the four-time Olympic champion a legal dose but had not recorded it.

The report said the committee was “shocked” to hear this, particularly as Dr Chakraverty claimed it was the first time he had administered L-carnitine.

It suggested the GMC investigate this failure to properly record the treatment.

In a statement, UKA “acknowledged” the report’s publication and said it was “pleased” the committee had noted the progress it had made in record-keeping.

When asked about the criticism of its new doctor, the FA declined to comment.

Prime Minister Theresa May’s official spokesman said regarding the report: “Broadly, we are clear that there is no place for doping in sport . The public should have trust in their sportspeople and have confidence that they are watching them compete on a level playing field.

“On the specifics of the report, it was an independent inquiry by the DCMS Select Committee and the Government will respond to it in the usual way.

“It’s obviously worth noting that Team Sky has refuted the allegations.”

Asked whether there was a case for considering whether Wiggins should keep his knighthood, the spokesman said: “That’s not something we ever comment on.”

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UAE Team Emirates aim for stage wins and GC as they name strong squad for assault on Paris-Nice

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Rui Costa will be eyeing success on the hills of Paris-Nice.

UAE Team Emirates will be aiming for stage wins and the overall General Classification glory when they take on the iconic Paris-Nice race this week.

Starting on Sunday, March 4, and finishing a week later on Sunday, March 11, the team has announced one of its strongest line-ups of the season and includes former world champion and Abu Dhabi Tour 2017 winner Rui Costa, Tour de France stage winner Dan Martin and Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 stage winner, Alexander Kristoff.

The riders will be supported by seasoned pros Rory Sutherland and Ben Swift, with the young duo of Sven Erik Bystrom and Oliviero Troia gaining valuable experience in one of the UCI World Tour’s most competitive races.

Sports Directors Joxean Matxin and Philippe Mauduit will guide the riders throughout the seven-day race, with support from their colleague Simone Pedrazzini.

Commenting on his second appearance for UAE Team Emirates, Irishman Martin said: “I’m feeling good heading to Paris-Nice. In Algarve, I had good days and bad days but it was the perfect way to get the legs and body going but also to start working with my new team mates, both riders and staff.

“Paris-Nice is one of the hardest races on the calendar because there is no easy day. The race can be lost every day, as we saw last year. On paper the first stages seem easier but then there is the possibility of bad weather and crosswinds.

Dan Martin will be going for GC glory.

Dan Martin will be going for GC glory.

“Of course the time trial and mountain top finish on stage seven will see the biggest time gaps and the race will likely be won there, but what makes Paris-Nice hard is the concentration and endurance to not lose the race on the other stages, but also save enough energy to be good when it counts.

“My place on the podium at Paris-Nice last year was my first big result, so I’m definitely back this year to contest the GC, but of course I need to survive the first days and then we will see the situation after the time trial.”

It’s been an encouraging start to life with the team for reigning European road race champion, Kristoff, whose presence in Paris-Nice will be his fourth appearance for his new team.

The Norwegian, who won the opening stage of the Abu Dhabi Tour, said: “There won’t be many opportunities for sprint finishes and the route will be difficult each day. I’m going to try and take advantage of every opportunity I get.

“I’m getting into better and better shape and the victories I achieved in Oman and Abu Dhabi are motivating me. Paris-Nice will be especially useful to continue improving my fitness, as I look forward to Milano-San Remo and the Belgian Classics.”

Riders will start in the Paris suburb of Chatou as they take to the first stage and a 135km course that sees the peloton take on three, category three climbs, one of which is the ascent finish at Meudon.

Stage 2 will be an opportunity for the sprinters to make their mark on the race with a flat 187.5km route which could be the only stage to end in a bunched sprint finish.

Alexander Kristoff has already won stages in Oman and Abu Dhabi for his new team.

Alexander Kristoff has already won stages in Oman and Abu Dhabi for his new team.

A gruelling 210km awaits riders on Stage 3, one of the longest on the UCI World Tour, tackling three, category three climbs before arriving in Chatel-Guyon.

Stage 4 will bring out the time trial specialists, whilst Stage 5 will be the first considerable test on rider’s legs. The 165km route from Salon-de-Provence to Sisteron features a category two climb, followed by a category one and then two category three climbs.

There will be no let up for riders on Stage 6 either, as the penultimate race of the tour sees the group navigate a 198km route that favours the climb specialists, with four category two climbs and one category one climb.

The final stage could provide viewers with one of the most thrilling days of riding of the season so far with the peloton set to battle a 175km route from Nice to Valdeblore La Colmiane.

Any fatigued riders could be found out here, with the route featuring an early category two climb at 10km, before a category one climb at the mid-point of the race. Two category two climbs will test the riders’ strength, before coming into the final 10km and attacking a category one ascent finish.

To find out more about UAE Team Emirates, visit uaeteamemirates.com.

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James Knox eases nerves on WorldTour debut after impressing for Quick-Step Floors

Matt Jones 27/02/2018
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He won plaudits from teammates and commentators alike on his WorldTour debut, but James Knox was just pleased his bow at the elite level didn’t go horribly wrong and uncover his faults as a cyclist.

The 22-year-old British rider recorded a very creditable 64th finish in the Abu Dhabi Tour’s General Classification on Sunday – better than half of the 132-man field at the third UCI WorldTour race of the 2018 season.

He enjoyed a best finish of 49th on the final stage ascent of Jebel Hafeet – 5mins 25secs behind stage and overall winner Alejandro Valverde – which helped him finish 13th in the young rider category.

A stunning second place in the Under-23 category at 2017’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege race was enough to convince Quick-Step Floors CEO Patrick Lefevere to sign him from UCI Continental Team Wiggins last September – having been on the Belgian team’s radar all year.

But before making his bow on the big stage in the Emirates, Knox admitted he was anxious not to make any mistakes on his debut.

“Before coming here one of the things I would have been anxious about was how I rode for the team at the front of the race,” the Cumbria native told Sport360.

“It’s not something I’ve had to do before and I’m quite small so I’m not that powerful. I guess I didn’t really want to get told on the radio ‘James, you need to be down the front now’.

“And not being able to do that, which was my worst nightmare. Being at the elite level but feeling like I’m not cutting it.

“I’ve been able to do what’s being asked of me, everyone seems to be happy with what I’ve done so it’s a huge relief and hopefully something to build on. I’ve got a lot of good races coming up and this has been a great place to start.”

Knox didn’t just make up the numbers for a strong Quick-Step side selected for Abu Dhabi. He started putting in some mammoth turns on the front, drawing attention with domestique performances that helped Elia Viviani to one stage win.

“I’m loving it at the minute,” he said.

“It’s my first race so I’m still settling in to the team but so far they’ve been happy with what I’ve been doing. We won the second stage so that was an amazing feeling, to be part of a winning team and to feel a part of it.

“I know I wasn’t the last man for Elia or anything special but I did a bit of work during the stage and the team savours the victories which is really nice. They win a lot but don’t take it for granted. We all had a little celebration after and it was really special.”

After Viviani – the 2016 Olympic Games omnium champion – won Stage 2 on Thursday from Yas Mall to Yas Beach, the Italian heaped praise on Knox in his post-race interviews.

Knox helped pull the second echelon group back up to the first group on a chaotic day of racing heavily affected by crosswinds. His work gave Viviani hopes of victory, moving to the front of the race to prevent further attacks in the final 20km.

And Knox admitted Viviani and the rest of the team – including Fabio Sabatini and Julian Alaphilippe – have welcomed him with open arms.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” he added.

“You have the idea some of the top guys might be a little stand-offish or not have much respect for the young guys, but that’s not the case at all. The bigger the name on the team the more time they’ve had and happier they are to show me the ropes.

“They’ve got so much experience and are so established themselves they’re happy to help out the young lads. They’ve all taken me in and taught me a lot already.”

Abu Dhabi Tour 2018 - 4a edizione - Tappa 2 - Yas Island Stage - da Yas Mall a Yas Beach - 154 km (95,7 miglia)

On Viviani in-particular, he said: “We’re completely different riders so he’s not had to sit me down and show me the ropes, but every stage, win or lose, he’s given me a pat on the back, which shows the class of the guy.

“He appreciates everything the guys do for him on the team. He loses a stage and he doesn’t start blaming anyone. The team did a good job for him on the first three stages and he’s appreciative of that. I can’t fault him.”

The future for British cycling certainly looks bright – with Knox and Chris Lawless’ (Team Sky) rise to the World Tour this year bringing the number of Brits at the top level for 2018 to 19.

They are the eighth-most represented nation in the WorldTour peloton and Knox has talked up the new generation following in the footsteps of Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish.

“There’s already a lot of established GB riders,” said Knox.

“We’ve got myself, James Shaw, Scott Davies, Tao (Geoghegan Hart) all in our first few years as WorldTour riders. Maybe give us five or six years and we’ll be solid, established pros and getting up there in races.

“It’s still early days, and there are plenty of young guys coming up behind us. It’s exciting for British cycling and hopefully the future’s good.”

Knox is now a resident of Girona, having moved to Spain’s Catalonia region in 2016. And even though he states people who describe him as the next great British cycling hope are “getting carried away”, there are rumours from Spain that he recently broke a climbing record held by 2012 Tour de France winners and five-time Olympic gold medallist Wiggins.

“Maybe people are getting carried away as they’ve seen me on the TV and riding for Quick-Step but I’m not setting the world on fire,” said Knox, addressing the question of being the next British star.

“But it’s not a burden. Guys like Tao and Scott Davies, we’re all the same age. Tao’s been on the WorldTour for a year already and has achieved quite a lot more so has proven to be a level ahead.

“Me and Scott are up and coming, we came from Team Wiggins, and hopefully in a few years we’ll be following the route of the Yates brothers (Adam and Simon), Froome and (Ben) Swift, being the next generation.”

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