SII Focus 15th November 2017

UKAD closes its investigation into Team Sky package with no charges issued

UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) today confirmed that it has closed its investigation into a package flown out to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman to teat Sir Bradley Wiggins at the end of the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné due to a lack of evidence. ‘UKAD remains unable to confirm or refute the account that the package delivered to Team Sky contained fluimucil’, read a statement. ‘It follows that UKAD does not intend to issue any anti-doping charges in relation to the package’.

However, inquiries about the package may not be over. ‘UKAD became aware of information that it considered to be of possible interest to the General Medical Council’, continued UKAD’s statement. ‘UKAD has shared that information with the GMC’.

The facts

British Cycling spent £1,263.90 in sending its Women’s road coach Simon Cope to France for one day to deliver the package to Dr. Freeman. Cope took the package through airport security without asking what was in it, he told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee of the UK Parliament.

Shane Sutton, British Cycling’s former Technical Director, told the DCMS Committee that the package had been requested by Dr. Freeman. “I believe that he administered the medication”, said Sutton (written evidence here).

Fluimucil is not prohibited in sport, but it is a drug that was not licensed for use in the UK at the time. Fluimucil is freely available in France, where the Criterium du Dauphiné takes place.

It is also freely available in Italy, where Wiggins and Team Sky were heading for a training camp in Sestriere, after the Criterium had finished. There are five pharmacies within 10 kilometres of Sestriere. Dr. Freeman had previously ordered the type of fluimucil that Team Sky uses from a pharmacy in Yverdon, Switzerland.

Dr. Freeman told the DCMS Committee that although a paper-based records system was in place during 2011, he kept his records on his laptop. Unfortunately, it appears that Dr. Freeman’s laptop was stolen whilst he was on holiday in Greece during the summer of 2014. UKAD previously confirmed there is a record that Dr. Freeman’s laptop was reported to British Cycling as stolen.

The allegations

The UKAD investigation began on 23 September 2016, shortly after the hacking group Fancy Bears leaked documents purporting to indicate three therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) held by Wiggins for triamcinolone. It is not clear whether UKAD’s investigation was triggered by Fancy Bears’ leak, or another source. As it is a glucocorticoid, triamcinolone’s use is prohibited in competition (IC) via ‘oral, intravenous, intramuscular or rectal routes’, however its use is permitted via other routes and out of competition (OOC).

The allegation dismissed by UKAD is that the package that Dr. Freeman delivered to Wiggins may have contained triamcinolone, not fluimucil. UKAD’s evidence summary states that the package was delivered to Freeman on 12 June 2011, and Bradley Wiggins recalled being treated with fluimucil on the evening of 12 June.

Triamcinolone is permitted outside of compete of competition, and the Critérium du Dauphiné finished on 12 June. As such, even if the package did contain triamcinolone and not fluimucil, there may be no case to answer.

Lessons to be learned

UKAD’s statement mentions a lack of medical records at British Cycling being a “serious concern”. On 19 December 2016, British Cycling told the DCMS Committee that if the package contained pharmaceutical products, it would be able to provide evidence of what was in the package in a couple of days. On 18 January 2017, it claimed that UKAD’s investigation prevented it from accessing documents that would be able to prove the contents of the package.

Questions remain as to why British Cycling officials offered to provide ‘detailed records’ of the package’s contents, if it was pharmaceutical, to the DCMS at the initial hearing on 19 December last year. As previously mentioned, UKAD found that the only copy of the relevant records was kept on Dr. Freeman’s laptop. On 15 March 2017, Team Sky claimed that it had ‘not been able to provide the complete set of records that we should have around the specific race relevant to UKAD’s investigation’.

UKAD mentions that as part of their conditions to receive funding from UK Sport, all sports governing bodies must comply with UK National Anti-Doping Policy. This makes UKAD responsible for drawing up the UK Anti-Doping Rules, which do not appear to require sports governing bodies (SGBs) to keep medical records of treatment administered to athletes. It could be argued that this policy needs to be updated, although policing such a requirement is another issue.

We accept that the relationship between British Cycling and Team Sky developed rapidly and as a result, at times, resulted in the blurring of the boundaries between the two’, read a statement. ‘This led to some failings in the way that processes and people were managed. Today, based on our learning together there are clear boundaries and distinctions between our two organisations: no one is simultaneously employed by British Cycling and Team Sky; and we each have our own practices in place for managing athlete records.’

Though UKAD has no power to sanction British Cycling or Dr. Richard Freeman for failing to keep adequate records, the GMC is apparently investigating whether to take action against him. Dr. Freeman resigned from British Cycling in October due to ill health. It is understood that this was due to stress brought on by continued investigations.

GMC Guidance requires doctors to make records ‘at the time the events happen, or as soon as possible afterwards’. It also requires doctors to store patient records securely. ‘If you are responsible for the management of patient records or other patient information, you should make sure that they are held securely and that any staff you manage are trained and understand their responsibilities’, reads GMC guidance on confidentiality. ‘You should make use of professional expertise when selecting and developing systems to record, access and send electronic data’.

If it is accurate that UKAD’s investigation was triggered by Fancy Bears’ leaked documents, then questions need to be asked about whether UKAD should be pursuing investigations based on documents leaked by a hacking group suspected of being driven by political motives. As Sir Bradley Wiggins pointed out in a statement, it may be in the public interest for UKAD to reveal the source that triggered the investigation, as well as why it has taken so long for conclusions to be drawn. It appears that all the investigation has accomplished is to upset a lot of people.

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