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Team Sky faces ‘challenging’ times with anti-doping investigation

Team Sky finds itself under renewed scrutiny, due to hacked information about the team's TUEs and a new, controversial Daily Mail report.

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FLORENCE, Italy (VN) — Team Sky admits these are “challenging” times with the Bradley Wiggins TUE controversy and reports of a medical package flown 450 miles to a race.

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) opened an investigation into the British super-team Sky and British Cycling, sending two officials to meet at their shared headquarters at the Manchester velodrome Friday, the Daily Mail reports.

“It has been a challenging few weeks for the team,” Sky said in a statement. “Given some of the recent headlines we wanted to set out the facts. Team Sky was recently contacted by the Daily Mail regarding an allegation of wrongdoing which we strongly refute.

“We welcome this [UKAD] investigation as we are confident there has been no wrongdoing. We take these issues seriously and we will cooperate fully with UKAD. We hope it can be completed as thoroughly and quickly as possible.”

“Team Sky abide by the rules. We are committed to clean competition and we want you to know that we 100% stand by that.”

The season appeared to be ending in a golden hour with the medal haul in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, instead, British Cycling and Team Sky find themselves in the twilight.

The problems began when a Russian hacker group, “Fancy Bears,” released TUE certificates for several Olympic athletes including Wiggins. Wiggins received permission to use a strong corticosteroid triamcinolone ahead of three important objectives: the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia. The charismatic Londoner became the first Brit to win the Tour in 2012.

There was no indication of wrongdoing, but it exposed sport’s grey areas with medical certificates. Wiggins defended himself, saying, “I’ve been a lifelong sufferer of asthma. This was to cure a medical condition. This wasn’t about trying to find a way to gain an unfair advantage.”

The Sky/Wiggins issue worsened Thursday when British newspaper the Daily Mail revealed how a medical packaged was delivered by a British Cycling staff member to Doctor Richard Freeman. Freeman works for both Sky and British Cycling.

Simon Cope flew one hour and 40 minutes to Geneva, Switzerland, and drove two hours to La Toussuire, France, to meet Sky on the final stage of the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné. British Cycling and Sky would not say who the package was for and what was in it. Sky boss David Brailsford said that Cope flew to meet cyclist Emma Pooley, who later said it was impossible because she was in Spain at the time.

It led to the anti-doping investigation and a visit by UKAD officials to the Manchester velodrome Friday. Wiggins, who is reportedly not the center of the probe, said, “I welcome this investigation.”

Freeman, who attended the Olympics with the team in Rio, decided against going to the world championships this week in Doha, Qatar.

“This was a decision taken with the best interests of Richard and the riders at heart,” said Andy Harrison, British Cycling’s programs director. “We have every confidence that the team will get all the support they need.”

Throwing fuel on the fire, former Sky cyclist Jonathan Tiernan-Locke said that controversial, but allowed, painkiller Tramadol “was offered freely around” the British team during the 2012 worlds. Tiernan-Locke could have an axe to grind after Sky sacked him in 2014 and in the wake of a biological passport suspension.