Wiggins reputation on brink of ruin, but Team Sky asked for this

Posted on: September 24th, 2016

Against the backdrop of claiming to be the world’s most ethical pro team, Bradley Wiggins is being hammered despite having broken no rules (Photo: Sirotti)


By Cillian Kelly

Having appointed itself as the best boy in the class on anti doping, ethics and transparency, Team Sky has been badly damaged by revelations about Bradley Wiggins’ TUEs. But having assumed iconic status in Britain, it is Wiggins himself who is under most pressure right now, writes Cillian Kelly.

Bradley Wiggins hasn’t broken any rules but as it stands his reputation is on the brink of ruin.

On September 15th, details of the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) which had been issued to him throughout his career were leaked by a group of Russian hackers known as Fancy Bears.

A TUE allows an athlete to take an otherwise banned drug when they are suffering from an acute or chronic medical condition.

In Wiggins’ case, the drug was a synthetic corticosteroid known as triamcinolone acetonide.The TUE states it was for a pollen alergy and a spokesman for Wiggins has suggested it related to asthma.

He was granted permission to take this drug three times during his years at Team Sky – shortly before the Tours de France of 2011 and 2012 as well as just before the 2013 Giro d’Italia.

These three races were all ones in which Wiggins was expected to compete for the victory.

He won the 2012 Tour and withdrew from the other two races due to injuries sustained in crashes.

It may seem that this is all much ado about nothing. Wiggins has operated completely within the rules.

If a rider on another team had actually tested positive for EPO, there would probably be less controversy. So why is there so much focus being placed on Team Sky and Wiggins?

This is a topic which has been addressed in detail before here on Sticky Bottle.

Team Sky has literally asked for this. It has asked for heightened levels of scrutiny and team principal David Brailsford has said that Team Sky has a responsibility to be transparent.

But it has not been transparent; not in relation to revealing the fact Wiggins had TUEs at key times.

Damned by comments

Wiggins has not broken any rule of cycling in applying for and being granted a series of TUEs.

However, it is not only the three corticosteroid injections during his time at Team Sky that are the subject of debate now.

The context provided by some of Wiggins’ own comments are perhaps cause for greater concern when considered in light of the TUE information that has now been leaked.

The 2012 Tour de France winner said in his book ‘My Time’, published shortly after he won that race, that he had ‘never had an injection, apart from when I’ve had my vaccinations, and on occasion I’ve been put on a drip when I’ve come down with diarrhoea or something or have been severely dehydrated’.

According to the leaked TUE documentation, Wiggins wrote these words after he had twice been injected with triamcinolone acetonide to treat his acute asthmatic/pollen problems.

In a statement released last week by a spokesperson for Wiggins, this inconsistency was addressed:

“Brad’s passing comment regarding needles in the 2012 book referred to the historic and illegal practice of intravenous injections of performance-enhancing substances, which was the subject of a law change by (world cycling’s governing body) the UCI in 2011.

“The triamcinolone injection that is referred to in the WADA leaks is an intramuscular treatment for asthma and is fully approved by the sport’s governing bodies.

“Brad stands by his comment concerning the use of illegal intravenous needle injections.”

But Wiggins’ passing comment didn’t include specific mention of ‘illegal intravenous needle injections’.

The comment only mentioned injections, along with a list of exceptions to the claim of not using injections.

None of the exceptions included anything to do with the medical conditions now in play; asthma and pollen alergy.

In another statement released by Wiggins’s spokesperson to CyclingNews last week regarding the leaked TUEs it stated ‘there’s nothing new here’.

This statement is simply incorrect. These TUEs issued to Wiggins during his time at Team Sky had never been in the public domain.

This information was most definitely new, a fact that leaves Team Sky squarely open to the charge of not being transparent in the way it said it would.

The statement goes on to claim that ‘everyone knows Brad suffers from asthma’.

Wiggins has written four autobiographies to date, none of which contain any mention of having asthma.

Complained about others injecting

Back in July 2011, Wiggins had gone a step further than merely claiming he had never had an injection.

He bemoaned the UCI’s lack of effort in policing its own no-needle policy. Speaking to The Mirror on July 1st, 2011, Wiggins said:

“The needle ban is fantastic but at the [recent] Dauphiné [race] there was no sign of it being policed.

“It would be great on the Tour [de France] if they actually raided teams to see if they were toeing the line. Medical people in our team are adamant other teams are still using syringes for recovery.”

Twenty four hours before this article was published on The Mirror‘s website, the UCI’s doctor Mario Zorzoli had authorized the TUE for Wiggins to have an intramuscular injection.

Wiggins is due to appear on The Andrew Marr show on BBC on Sunday morning to address his leaked TUEs and the questions that have followed.

Given all that has been claimed by Team Sky in the past and given Wiggins’s own comments condemning the very practices he has been revealed to have partaken in himself, it’s hard to imagine what he will say to restore his deteriorating reputation.