Opinion: Arrogant Team Sky now cutting its own throat

Posted on: December 20th, 2016

Team Sky thought it was above explaining itself; and now that it has it has only created more doubt.


Having refused to disclose what was in a ‘jiffy bag’ transported to Team Sky in 2011 since its existence emerged almost three months ago, Dave Brailsford has finally revealed what – he believes – was in it.

But while that question was cleared up – or at least a recollection of events offered up at yesterday’s parliamentary committee hearing – the hole Team Sky finds itself in is perhaps bigger than ever.

Team principal Brailsford said the bag contained the medicine Fluimucil; used for clearing mucus.

British Cycling’s former technical director Shane Sutton, now departed in a sexism storm, said the substance was for Bradley Wiggins.

However, Sutton was unsure what exactly it was for – offering up a ‘long term health issue’ that Wiggins had as one reason and later saying he thought the rider had a chest infection.

Wiggins of course had won the Critérium du Dauphiné on the day in 2011 the package was delivered to him via Dr Richard Freeman.

Brailsford conceded he was outlining what was in the bag based on what he had been told by Freeman.

There does not seem to be any paper trail recording the product’s dispatch from the UK to France; none that Brailsford offered up anyway.

And when he was asked if there was anything else in the jiffy bag, he said he “hoped” there wasn’t.

It was a startling admission and crazy turn of phrase from the self-styled razor sharp head of the biggest, best and cleanest team in the world

Sutton said he did not know what medical products Wiggins was taking, explaining he simply left that up to the medics in the set-up and got on with his own job.

British Cycling’s president Bob Howden and its board director Dr George Gilbert were up first at the hearing yesterday, followed by Sutton on his own and then Brailsford on his own for a combined session that lasted a three hours.

At the end of it all, world cycling and the British public was left with the choice of believing or not believing a decongestant was in the jiffy bag.

The lack of documentary evidence (so far, at any rate) is a gaping hole in Team Sky’s already shredded credibility.

The fact that Sutton never knew or thought to even familiarise himself with anything Wiggins was taking – even to assess the impact it might have on his training, racing or recovery – seems incredible.

And for a team that brings its own beds around when it races, it is remarkable that Brailsford didn’t know what was in the bag and still doesn’t know; basing his knowledge on Freeman’s memory.

Sutton described Team Sky as the cleanest in the world and suggested Brailsford was essentially the man who had invented clean cycling success.

And he said so clean was Wiggins, Team Sky, British Cycling generally and all its stars that he didn’t need to concern himself with the medicines being taken because he knew they were all legal.

Sutton even became angry at one stage that the MPs quizzing him were failing to embrace the success British Cycling had achieved.

“You sitting there being British should be embracing the success they’ve achieved and how they’ve achieved it, rather than looking for something that’s not there,” Sutton told the MPs.

“This team, from Laura Trott to Bradley Wiggins to Jason Queally that won that gold in Sydney, Sir Chris Hoy, Pendleton, Cooke – they’ve all done it clean.

“You’ve actually upset me there in the fact that you’ve not embraced the success of British cycling as a whole.

“I’m astounded that you would make that sort of tone, suggesting that we’ve not done anything by the book.”

Brailsford offered an invitation to anyone who wanted to come and spend time with the team and see it was clean.

But on the basis that even he didn’t know and still can’t be sure what was in a medical bag going to its star rider just weeks out from a Tour de France he hoped to win; you’d wonder why anyone would take up the offer.

If Brailsford didn’t know and still can’t be sure what was in the bag, what chance would an outsider have in trying to monitor the team and reach a conclusion grounded in any kind of certainty?

It must be remembered that in taking the TUEs he did, Wiggins and the team did not step outside the rules.

And there is no evidence – not one scintilla – the ‘jiffy bag’ contained anything illegal; or indeed that anyone in the team has broken any rules at any time.

It is a mark of Brailsford’s bungling, and the team’s arrogance in believing it was above explaining itself long before now, that a controversy featuring no known banned drugs has blown up so spectacularly and continues to deepen.