Nicole Cooke presents damning evidence to Parliamentary inquiry into sexism and doping in cycling

Former Olympic and world champion Nicole Cooke appears before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into combating doping in sport

Nicole Cooke.
(Image credit: Graham Watson)

Nicole Cooke presented damning written and verbal evidence to the British parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into combating doping in sport on Tuesday (January 24).

The former Olympic, world and British national champion submitted written evidence ahead of her appearance via video link at the inquiry on Tuesday morning.

Cooke's inclusion in the inquiry comes after the appearance of Dave Brailsford and Shane Sutton in front of the committee in December.

Cooke outlined two main 'problems' in her written submission: that cycling is a "sport run by men, for men" and that anti-doping efforts in cycling are "the wrong people fighting the wrong war, in the wrong way, with the wrong tools".

Cooke drew on her experience riding for 10 years, between 2002 and 2012, for the British national team and for trade teams.

Writing about the jiffy bag containing medication that was transported by British Cycling women's team manager Simon Cope to Bradley Wiggins and Team Sky at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, Cooke says: "Cope was doing what he was told to do. Shane Sutton states he approved Cope’s trip with the jiffy bag. Nobody in the organisation anywhere would have asked the question – hasn’t Cope got another job to do?"

Cooke says that Cope joined Wiggins at a training camp and spent "some weeks riding a moped in front of him as part of a training regimen" rather than carrying out duties for the women's team.

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At several points, Cooke says that the behaviour of those involved with the British team and UK Sport was a symptom of lack of governance and accountability – something which she also says led to the uneven distribution of funds and support between male and female cyclists.

"Very little was ever done to support female road riders during my career. At times odd riders would be supported for a period, while they were 'in favour' but mostly, that support was only ever transient".

Cooke recounts an incident at he 2008 World Championships, which came directly after her Olympic road race victory in Beijing. Cooke reports that British Cycling had "downgraded" its preparation for the 2008 Worlds as there was "no male rider who could effectively challenge for a World title".

Cooke had asked for a skinsuit to use for the race, but that one was not available.

"Expecting this, I had brought to the championships my skin suit from the year before. Dave Brailsford was insistent that I could not wear it as it did not feature the logo of the new Sponsor Sky. Eventually a compromise was reached on the eve of the race, in which Emma Pooley, who had a needle and thread with her, cut out the Sky logo of the jersey and sewed it onto my old skinsuit.

Nicole Cooke wearing the skinsuit that had Sky's logo sewn onto it in 2008 by team-mate Emma Pooley. Photo: Graham Watson

"I won the World Title and became the first person, male or female, to be World and Olympic road race champion in the same year."

On the uneven treatment of male and female riders, Cooke said: "This un-equitable and discriminatory distribution of resource was only possible due to the failure of UK Sport to hold the senior management of BC to account.

"Throughout my whole career, BC senior management and the Board could not have made it more clear to those they directed, that men and the actions and achievements of men, were all that mattered. This was obvious to all observers of the sport but UK Sport just stood by, watched and approved."

Moving onto the subject of doping, Cooke says that she presented evidence on the subject of performance enhancing drugs to UK Anti-Doping on two occasions, with no satisfactory outcome.

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"In the first case they stated they would not do anything with my evidence. On the second they took no notes during the meeting and informed me I could not be given any information of any sort as to how they might process the evidence I gave them."

Cooke recounts her experience, when still a teenager signed to an Italian team: "At the age of 19 I was the only Brit on my team in Italy and I was encouraged by two members of the management of my team to dope."

She passed this information onto the forerunner of UKAD, but nothing was done with the information and she says it was not passed on to Italian authorities.

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Cooke also questioned the use of Therapeutic Use Exemption certificates by BC and Team Sky. She says that she was given four TUEs during her career, namely to treat a serious knee injury.

"I had a TUE for this treatment receiving the same steroid that Bradley Wiggins used more recently. At the time it could only be used with a TUE, whether in or out of competition. That injection failed to address the medical problems and I continued not to race and ended up having surgery in May 2004."

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Cooke later says: "Of concern are the TUEs issued by the Team Sky/British Cycling medical team for this same steroid. Perhaps, the more relevant question, rather than the strange coincident chronology of the ailment, is to ask the BC/Sky medical team how often has this steroid been issued to athletes out of competition.

"Is it used properly - to help recover from career threatening injuries or has it ever been used to assist athletes losing fat and gaining power in the out of competition preparation for major events?"

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee's inquiry into doping in sport continues.

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