Sir Bradley Wiggins has vehemently denied cheating during his career and claimed he is the victim of a “malicious” attempt to “smear” his reputation.
Wiggins, Team Sky and Sir Dave Brailsford have been accused of “crossing an ethical line” by asking for therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for banned medication they did not really need in a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) committee.
Wiggins insisted in an interview with the BBC he only used prescribed drugs for valid medical reasons and when asked if he categorically denied cheating, said: “A hundred per cent. Never, throughout my career.”
Wiggins added: “This is malicious. This is someone trying to smear me. These allegations, it’s the worst thing to be accused of.
“It’s also the hardest thing to prove you haven’t done. We’re not dealing in a legal system. I’d have had more rights if I’d murdered someone.”
The DCMS select committee report centred around the team’s use of triamcinolone to treat Wiggins’ asthma.
Triamcinolone is an anti-inflammatory steroid that can be used for medical purposes but can also help cyclists shed weight without losing power.
The DCMS report says the team crossed the ethical line by using the medication, and this was denied by Wiggins.
“No we didn’t,” the 37-year-old said. “Not at any time during my career did we cross the ethical line.”
Wiggins insisted he had only used triamcinolone on one occasion other than the three TUEs, which had already been made public, but the DCMS report says he may have taken it nine times in four years.
“I don’t know where that’s come from,” Wiggins said. “I really would like to know. This is an anonymous source, this is an anonymous person who has said this.
“I refute that 100 per cent. This is malicious. This is someone trying to smear me.”
Wiggins said he had adhered to the rules in place at the time and had been granted permission by cycling’s governing body to take the drug.
When asked if he would have won the Tour de France without it in 2012, he replied: “Well, had I had an asthma attack, no, probably not. No.”
Team Sky’s owners are understood to be backing Brailsford.
Sky UK declined to comment on the committee’s assessment of its cycling team, but acknowledged mistakes had been made in its medical record-keeping and oversight but “strongly refuted” the report’s key allegations.
The report, however, was scathing in its assessment of Brailsford’s evidence to the committee in December 2016.
When asked if Brailsford was still the right man to lead the team, Wiggins said it could be time for him to step down.
“It will be a shame if he had to go when a lot of this is just, it’s a report based on rumour and anonymous sources, and they’ve already admitted fault for those years in terms of record keeping and stuff,” Wiggins said.
“I think once things are substantiated and if proven, then maybe he should go, but until that is we can’t just take this report as, that’s it, set in concrete.”
Wiggins said he would now try to salvage his damaged legacy.
“I don’t know how I’m going to pick the pieces up with the kids and stuff, and I’m left to do that as well as trying to salvage my reputation from this,” he added. “I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
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.
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 & put my side across.
— Brad Wiggins (@SirWiggo) March 5, 2018
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.”
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.
“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.
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.