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Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins strongly denied some of the most damning allegations made in a high-profile report released overnight Sunday by a British parliamentary committee.
In a bombshell 54-page report that followed a months-long investigation into Team Sky and British athletics, one of the most serious charges is that the team’s use of the corticosteroid triamcinolone was “to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need.” It was also accused of crossing an “ethical line” despite anti-doping rules allowing the use of the corticosteroid.
Team Sky came out on the defensive Monday with a strongly worded rebuttal.
“The report also makes the serious claim that medication has been used by the Team to enhance performance. We strongly refute this,” a Team Sky release stated. “The report also includes an allegation of widespread Triamcinolone use by Team Sky riders ahead of the 2012 Tour de France. Again, we strongly refute this allegation.”
The long-awaited report dropped late Sunday and was splashed on the front pages of Monday’s UK newspapers. It wasn’t all about Team Sky, however. The report also took aim at British athletics as well as general anti-doping rules with an equally searing view.
The report comes at the end of a long-running inquiry into therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) associated with Team Sky and Wiggins’s 2012 Tour de France victory prompted by leaks and other reporting into doping allegations leveled against the highest reaches of British sport.
The fallout could be serious. In the wake of other reports, including inquiries of a mysterious “Jiffy Bag,” both Sky’s and Wiggins’s public reputations have taken a beating both inside the UK and beyond.
Wiggins also refuted the report’s findings, posting a message Monday morning on Twitter saying, “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.”
The report comes as Team Sky star Chris Froome is fighting a possible racing ban after he tested for high levels of Salbutamol en route to winning last year’s Vuelta a España. Salbutamol is an approved asthma treatment, but Froome tested for double the allowed limits, triggering an adverse analytical finding.
Froome is set to race for the second time this season at Tirreno-Adriatico starting Wednesday. Though not directly related, the damning allegations made in the report and Froome’s pending case will only build pressure around Team Sky in the coming days and weeks.
And the strong indictments will likely add fuel to the fire among critics who are calling for Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford to step down. So far, Brailsford has shown no sign of that. On Monday, Team Sky promised to “take full responsibility for the mistakes that were made.”
“We wrote to the committee in March 2017 setting out in detail the steps we took in subsequent years to put them right, including, for example, the strengthening of our medical record keeping,” the Sky release said.
“We are surprised and disappointed that the committee has chosen to present an anonymous and potentially malicious claim in this way, without presenting any evidence or giving us an opportunity to respond. This is unfair both to the team and to the riders in question.”
The report also took aim at British Cycling for its record-keeping practices and its once-cozy link between the federation and the Team Sky infrastructure. Brailsford had already cut any links to the national governing body in 2014 before the inquiry reported its findings.
On Monday, British Cycling stated it would take steps “to ensure that failures identified in the committee’s inquiry will never happen again.”
Newspapers across the UK took a grim view of the report. The Daily Mail’s headline read, “Sir Bradley Wiggins DID take drug to win 2012 Tour.” The Guardian wrote, “Remarkable drugs report shatters Team Sky’s illusion of integrity.” The tabloid Sun put it this way in a front-page bold headline: “WIGGO DOPING SHOCK.”