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Former rider accuses Sky of ignoring ‘no needles’ rule

LONDON (AFP) — A former British pro racer, who failed to make the grade at Team Sky, said the team did not report him for breaking cycling’s “no needles” rule, provoking fresh scrutiny of the under-pressure outfit.

Josh Edmondson, who moved to Team Sky in 2013 before leaving by mutual consent in 2014, told the BBC he had admitted to team management to injecting himself with a cocktail of legal vitamins.

The use of a needle would contravene a policy laid down by the UCI and Team Sky’s own strict rules.

Sky, which won four of the last five Tours de France, says it did not report Edmondson — whose stash of vials and syringes was found by a teammate — because he denied injecting himself when officials confronted him during the 2014 season. During that year, Edmonson did not finish a number of major races, including Volta a Catalunya, and the Ardennes treble of Amstel Gold Race, Flèche Wallonne, and Liège-Bastogne-Liège. His best result that season was fifth place at British road national championships, when he was 22 years old.

He raced for the UK-registered Continental team NFTO in 2016, but that squad lost its sponsorship ahead of 2017.

Edmondson accused Sky of a cover-up over his self-injections, an allegation it denies.

“I think that would have meant a bigger admission for them,” he told the BBC. “They’d have had to say publicly a kid was injecting. Injecting anything’s bad.

“It’s not like they were banned substances, but injecting is against the rules, to self-administer anything, I believe.”

Edmondson also admitted to becoming addicted to the legal painkiller tramadol, which plunged him into bouts of severe depression.

Read more about tramadol addiction >>

Sky released a statement on Edmondson’s accusation Friday:

“In August 2014 an incident was reported through our internal ‘whistle blower’ policy regarding Josh Edmondson.

The senior management team were made aware of this immediately and an investigation was initiated. At the conclusion of this we were satisfied that, while there had been a breach of the team’s own policies, there was no evidence of any anti-doping violation having taken place.

After interviews with the rider, Dr Steve Peters, Team Sky’s Clinical Director, expressed immediate and serious concern regarding Josh’s wellbeing and judged that he should be offered professional support. Josh met with Dr Peters so that this support could be provided.

Given our belief that there was no evidence of an anti-doping rule violation having taken place, the decision not to escalate or make public the incident was taken with the team’s duty of athlete care in mind.

Josh Edmondson was retained by Team Sky until his contract expired in December 2014. The decision not to renew his contract was taken as a result of this incident combined with wider failures to adhere to team policies which had already been discussed with Josh and his agent prior to this incident. A continuation of the support provided by both Dr Peters and Team Sky was offered to Josh even after his departure from the team.

Both the Team Sky Board and Josh’s agent were kept fully up to date throughout this process.

We are satisfied that this incident was handled correctly and we believe that it stands as an example of the robust procedures Team Sky has in place for any concerns to be raised, investigated and properly dealt with.”

Edmondson’s accusation comes with Team Sky and its boss Dave Brailsford embroiled in a controversy over what was in a jiffy bag delivered to the team doctor at the 2012 Critérium du Dauphiné for then star rider Bradley Wiggins — there has been an allegation it was a banned corticosteroid. The team said it was a legal decongestant.