Cycling crisis: Chris Froome fails to back Dave Brailsford

Questions raised after Tour de France champion fails to join Team Sky's tweets of support for their under-fire boss

Chris Froome and Dave Brailsford celebrate victory in the 2016 Tour de France 
(Image credit: Christophe Ena / AFP)

Nicole Cooke makes explosive claims against British Cycling

25 January

Nicole Cooke, the ex-Olympic cycling gold medallist, has rounded on senior figures at British Cycling, accusing the organisation of being institutionally sexist and casting doubt on its claim to be the cleanest team in the sport.

Her comments to MPs "cast grave doubt on Sir Bradley Wiggins's use of therapeutic use exemptions", says The Times as she made a series of "explosive" accusations against senior figures within the organisation.

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She said she was "sceptical" over injections of triamcinolone given to Wiggins shortly before the 2011 and 2012 Tours, and the 2013 Giro d’Italia. Cooke also expressed disbelief over the saga of the jiffy bag sent to Wiggins in 2011, which team boss Sir Dave Brailsford says he was told contained an over-the-counter medication, although no paperwork has been found.

"I think the stance of being the 'cleanest' team and yet the team principal not knowing what the riders were treated with, definitely makes it hard to back up that claim," she said.

Cooke also described cycling as "a sport run by men, for men". She recounted her experience of having to pay for flights and accommodation and said: "The facts are they did nothing for the women."

"Throughout a one-hour appearance before the department of culture, media and sport select committee, Cooke was measured and convincing," says The Guardian. "But her evidence ended up being damning for some of the most respected organisations in British sport."

It was another blow for "one of the great success stories of British sport", says Matt Dickinson of The Times. "One MP said she was 'horrified' while others claimed to be 'shocked' by the disparity between the gleaming facade and the mangled internal workings as painted by this Olympic road race champion.

"This glaring clash of perceptions is only likely to get worse with the imminent publication of a report into the culture within British Cycling due out next month, which has heard from Cooke, and more complainants, about discrimination."

A "painful dissection of the truth lies ahead", says Dickinson. "It will get worse before it gets better for a sport which manages to be both Team GB's most successful and, in the past 12 months, most troubled."

Some may choose to ignore Cooke, says Tom Cary of the Daily Telegraph. After all she is "about as feisty an individual as you could wish to meet" who has made similar allegations in the past. Some of her evidence was "certainly debatable" he says, given that since 2008 the women's team have won 62 medals at Olympic and world championships, one fewer then the men's team, despite having fewer events.

"What is certain is that to dismiss Cooke's evidence on Tuesday out of hand as that of a bitter and twisted rider, or a 'troublemaker' as she described herself, is to miss the point entirely.

"Taken as a whole, the accusations paint a disturbing picture – especially taken in conjunction with other recent testimony from the likes of Jess Varnish and Victoria Pendleton – and at the very least they prompt much-needed debate about the way elite sport is run, policed and funded in this country."

Brailsford fights back as Wiggins jiffy bag saga rumbles on

11 January

Under fire Team Sky cycling chief Sir Dave Brailsford has hit back at criticism from the head of UK Anti-Doping as controversy continues to swirl around his team.

Ukad chairman David Kenworthy described some of the claims made by Brailsford to MPs investigating allegations of wrongdoing in cycling as "extraordinary" over the weekend, prompting the Team Sky supremo to suggest that Kenworthy was undermining the select committee probe.

The latest row represents yet another chapter in the saga of the jiffy bag sent to Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2011. Appearing before MPs before Christmas, Brailsford revealed that the package contained an over-the-counter medication called Fluimucil.

"To say that the evidence given by Brailsford and others, including British Cycling's president Bob Howden, had left some unconvinced would be an understatement," says Tom Cary of the Daily Telegraph. "Three months after beginning its investigation, Ukad has still not been able to verify that claim and last weekend, the chairman of Ukad himself, David Kenworthy, admitted his organisation was no closer to getting to the bottom of the mystery, describing the evidence given to MPs as 'extraordinary'."

Kenworthy's intervention may only add to the confusion as it could prompt MPs to recall Brailsford and other witnesses. In the meantime, and despite the distractions, Team Sky are attempting to prepare for the new season.

"Speaking during Team Sky's media day in Mallorca, Brailsford asserted that he has no intention of resigning from his post with the team," says William Fotherington of The Guardian. "These are far from routine times at the team that has dominated the Tour de France since 2012."

Against that backdrop it is time for the man at the centre of the claims to give his version of events, says Matt Dickinson of The Times. "It is about time we heard more from Wiggins himself, who should be explaining if it was really the simple decongestant Fluimucil that he needed bringing all the way from Manchester to France in June 2011, and why," he says.

"Wiggins has just signed up to a new PR agency and, despite insisting that he would never be seen dead on a celebrity TV show, taken on the dangers of The Jump, presumably in the hope of deflecting from the dents in his reputation."

Bradley Wiggins: MPs to quiz British Cycling over TUE use

28 October

British Cycling chiefs have been ordered to appear before a parliamentary hearing to explain the "full facts" surrounding Sir Bradley Wiggins's use of a powerful corticosteroid before three races. According to The Times, the culture, media and sport select committee will summon officials to their inquiry to discuss the contents of a medical package delivered by a British Cycling coach to Team Sky in France.

The package was handed over shortly after Wiggins had won the Criterium du Dauphine race in 2011 and the Times says it "will intensify pressure on British Cycling to disclose exactly what was in the package". The hearing is part of the committee's inquiry into doping in sport and will take place before Christmas. The list of those to be summoned has yet to be finalised but the committee is expected to examine the close links between British Cycling officials and Team Sky.

Last month Russian hackers revealed that Wiggins, Britain's most decorated Olympian, had been given therapeutic use exemption (TUE) in order to receive injections of triamcinolone.

The first TUE was issued before the 2011 Tour de France and he received further exemptions before the 2012 Tour and the 2013 Giro D'Italia. The 36-year-old has strenuously denied any wrongdoing, explaining that he took the drugs for a pollen allergy and to compete on what he described as “a level playing field” with other riders.

Speaking to the Times, Damian Collins, the committee's newly elected chairman, said: “As part of the inquiry into doping, the select committee wants to look at the ethics of the use of TUEs and the way this is policed by British Cycling. We can ask British Cycling about any incidents in the past where we believe it is important how the governing body oversees their sport."

British Cycling officials will be obliged to cooperate fully with the committee and failure to do so could result in them being held in contempt of parliament. "We welcome any opportunity to support anti-doping efforts," said a spokesman for the organisation.

But this latest development will only increase the scrutiny on British Cycling, which is also being investigated by UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) over allegations of wrongdoing concerning the package that was delivered by Simon Cope, then a British Cycling women's coach and now head of Wiggins's team. The Times says that Ukad investigators are "looking at whether the package was requested for Wiggins by Richard Freeman, the Team Sky doctor."

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