David Brailsford is the general manager and coach of Team Sky, the British giant that is currently as dominant as the Lance Armstrong-era USPS teams were a decade ago, and he’s got some explaining to do. Team Sky has taken four of the last five Tours de France, all while maintaining a militant anti-doping posture. However, leaked records from cycling’s governing body (the UCI) this summer showed that their two winners, Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, each received a series of therapeutic use exemptions that allowed them (primarily Wiggins) to legally use drugs that are normally banned. The practice is not outright illegal, but it’s discordant with Sky’s anti-doping posturing, and it’s led to larger questions about the pharmacological legitimacy of Bradley Wiggins’s time with the team.
On the final day of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, an assistant with British Cycling, Simon Cope, flew from BC headquarters to Geneva to deliver a manilla envelope (in British parlance, a “jiffy bag”) to a Team Sky doctor. Cope claims that he did not know what was in the envelope, despite having to pass through French and British customs. Additionally, Cope and Brailsford then claimed that Cope was headed to France to deliver something to British rider Emma Pooley, not Wiggins. Problem is, Pooley was off in Spain at the time.
Both Cope and Brailsford insist that the contents of Cope’s package were innocent, but the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Agency has opened an investigation. British parliament has even asked British Cycling about the package, and UCI chief Brian Cookson also called on Team Sky to practice the transparency they ask for and disclose what was in the envelope. Cycling News reported that the package did not contain the drug that Wiggins had recently obtained a TUE for:
British Cycling sources say that it was not triamcinolone, the corticosteroid given to Wiggins under a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to treat hay fever a few weeks later, before the start of the Tour de France. Key witnesses in the case have always claimed they cannot reveal the contents of the Jiffy bag due to the on-going UKAD investigation.
Brailsford has said that he regrets intensifying the scrutiny around his team this offseason, but the solution here is easy: Tell everyone what was in the bag. If it was nothing, tell the public. Your team doesn’t need to have its credentials fisked over and over again in the public eye if you simply come clean. Cycling’s doping rules are overly restrictive and arcane, but this climate of fear only gets worse when the team that purports to be the purest won’t defend themselves.