World cycling’s governing body should investigate whether Team Sky broke anti-doping rules after “unacceptable” findings in an MPs’ report, UCI president David Lappartient says.
The Frenchman told BBC Sport the findings of a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) select committee inquiry “could affect the global credibility of the sport”.
The report said Team Sky “crossed an ethical line” by using drugs allowed under anti-doping rules for medical purposes to enhance performance.
“If you are using substances to increase your performances, I think this is exactly what is cheating,” Lappartient said.
Team Sky have strongly denied using therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for anything other than medical need.
In a wide-ranging interview at the UCI’s headquarters in Aigle, Switzerland, Lappartient said:
- He was calling on the UCI’s independent integrity division – the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation (CADF) – to “to see if there is some violation of anti-doping rules”
- “The image of cycling and specifically in GB with Team Sky is damaged with this report”
- It would be “a disaster for the image of cycling” if Team Sky’s Chris Froome rode in the Tour de France with the case surrounding his adverse drugs test unresolved
The select committee report said Team Sky used the anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone to prepare Britain’s most decorated Olympian Sir Bradley Wiggins and a smaller group of riders for the Tour de France, which Wiggins won in 2012.
Asthmatic Wiggins was granted TUEs to take the corticosteroid triamcinolone, which can treat allergies and respiratory issues, shortly before the 2011 Tour de France, his 2012 Tour win and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
But the report says he used it as many as nine times in four years, which Wiggins, in a BBC interview this week, described as “completely malicious”. He added he took it just once out of competition – which is legal – “after the 2013 Giro d’Italia, when I came out with a knee problem”.
Wiggins told the BBC he is “100%” not a cheat.
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‘UCI should open investigation’
“It’s sad to see that when Team Sky was launched, I remember- they say ‘we will be clean, we will win races and be clean, more white than white’. We can see in this report that it seems to be a little bit different,” Lappartient said.
The Frenchman said he now wanted the UCI’s independent anti-doping division to investigate.
“We have the Cycling Anti-Doping Foundation, they have the power of investigation. I would like them to do this, to see if there is some violation of anti-doping rules,” he explained.
“They had at the time the TUE agreement but now we have the evidence that it seems to be organised.”
He added that at the time the TUE system was “a little bit simple”.
“Just by a letter of support from the doctor, then it was not so difficult to get the TUE, which is something completely different now,” he said.
“So you have to put this in the context of the time; the grey zone was too big and it seemed that this grey zone has been used by Team Sky at the time so, is it doping? Is it just using the rules? That is why the MPs’ report just says they were not breaching the rules.”
And referencing a Sky Sports interview with ex-Team Sky coach Shane Sutton, in which he called on Wiggins and former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman to come forward with more details, he continued: “I think we need to know more about all these stories, there are still some grey zones, even in this report. That’s why I saw this morning or yesterday that Shane Sutton asked Wiggins to tell the truth, so what does that mean?
“I read the press release from Team Sky say ‘look we apologise, we recognise that we made some mistakes’. A mistake is something you’ve done without an intention to be wrong. The report is a little bit different.
“It seems that it was a little bit organised, so it’s maybe not a mistake but a fault, which is different, because that could affect the credibility globally of our sport and that’s why I’m concerned about this.”
When asked if he agreed with the MPs that Team Sky “crossed the ethical line”, Lappartient said: “It’s in the report, what I can read, you can see that substances were used not for health problems or with strong pain but to increase your performances, then yes, that is something unacceptable for me and the philosophy we have, even if it seems there is no breach, no violation of the rules.”
And when asked if there could still be cheating even if rules had not been broken, Lappartient said: “If you are using substances to increase your performances I think this is exactly what is cheating.”
What about Chris Froome?
Four-time Tour de France winner Froome returned an adverse drug test result during his Vuelta a Espana victory in September.
Now the Briton has to explain to cycling’s world governing body how he returned double the allowed level of legal asthma drug Salbutamol in his urine.
Froome, 32, has vehemently denied any wrongdoing and believes his legacy will not be tainted once the issue is resolved.
He has chosen to continue riding in the meantime – he is currently competing in the Tirreno-Adriatico stage race – as there is no mandatory ban in this type of case and riders usually respond in private.
However, Lappartient has previously said Team Sky should suspend Froome until the case is resolved.
“We need to have a decision as soon as possible for Chris Froome himself, for his team, for us, for cycling,” he said on Wednesday.
“Of course we have to respect the rights of Chris Froome to defend what he thinks and what he believes with experts. So that’s why it’s taking some time.
“I’m not sure we can have the decision before May’s Giro d’Italia – I hope we can have it at least before the Tour de France in July because, can you imagine if he’s riding the Giro and with spectators crying against him, or if at the end he’s disqualified from the Giro – that’s something difficult for our sport.”
Lappartient added to have such a prominent rider under suspicion at the Tour de France “would be a disaster for the image of cycling, even if on a legal point of view he has a right to ride”.
“But for the image of our sport that could be a disaster and I don’t want to put our sport into trouble. So even for him to be more concentrated on defending his own case, from my point of view it would have been better for him not to ride.”
Team Sky rejected his earlier call to rest Froome but Lappartient, who replaced Britain’s Brian Cookson as UCI president last year, said he may ask again.
“I think if we have no decision of course before the Tour de France I will ask them to reconsider maybe their position and to consider my first proposition,” he said.
Should Brailsford resign?
When asked if Team Sky principal and founder Sir Dave Brailsford should resign over the controversy, Lappartient said: “I think he has to take the best decision for cycling in Great Britain.
“I saw all the statements on this in Great Britain that damaged Team Sky, damaged cycling and we know how strong is cycling, I’m just thinking about the millions of fans riding their bikes, enjoying cycling, I don’t want them to go away from our sport.
“I want just to tell them that they have to believe in the UCI, they have to believe in a clean sport. Our sport is probably one of the most clean sports and more clean than in the past.
“It seems they have created these wrongdoings, so I really think that the issue for him is to think about the future of his team – of all the employees, all the riders. I’m sure they are clean and doing what they have to do to ride in a proper way. The decision must be in line with all this and to continue to support cycling.”
Lappartient also called on Team Sky to join the Mouvement Pour un Cyclisme Credible (MPCC), a group of teams who promote clean cycling and want corticosteroids banned.
“They always said that they don’t need to join MPCC because are doing more and they are more clean. The reports seem to demonstrate the contrary,” he said.
The UCI president said the fallout from the Team Sky saga had reinforced his concerns about the use of TUEs, and called on the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) to ban corticosteroids and painkiller tramadol.