Team Sky chair backs Dave Brailsford as team hits back at 'inaccurate' and 'untrue' assumptions

Team Sky issues a statement refuting its critics

Chairman of Team Sky Graham McWilliam has publicly come out in support of embattled team principal Dave Brailsford as the team put out a lengthy statement challenging its critics.

Scrutiny of Sky and Brailsford in particular has intensified since UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) gave an update on its investigation into the team including a series of eyebrow raising revelations about lost medical records and large volumes of a controlled substance being ordered.

McWilliam took to Twitter to say: “For record, TS [Team Sky] Board & Sky are 100% behind team and Sir Dave Brailsford as its leader. We look forward to many more years of success.”

>>> Everything you need to know about the British Cycling/Sky mystery package saga

He also congratulated the team for “challenging some of the inaccurate commentary of recent days” as it released an eight-page document (which you can read in full here) outlining a series of “clarifications” on the UKAD investigation and how the team’s anti-doping practice has improved since 2011.

In a covering letter to that document Brailsford said: “While I obviously respect the fact that people will have their view on issues related to this investigation, I do believe that some of the comments made about Team Sky have been unreasonable and incorrect.”

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Brailsford has come under pressure in recent days after the chair of UKAD, Nicole Sapstead, told MPs that it had been unable to verify what was in a package shipped to the team at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011.

Sapstead revealed it had been alleged it contained the controlled substance triamcinolone and was administered to Bradley Wiggins that evening, a procedure for which he would have required a therapeutic use exemption [TUE] when he did not have one.

Sapstead said the agency had yet to reach a conclusion because there were no available records kept by then Sky doctor Richard Freeman, who had failed to upload them to a shared Dropbox folder.

Sky said that Freeman’s lack of records was a "failure to comply with team policy on this occasion", however, the team added "that does not mean that he kept no medical records at all".

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Sapstead also told MPs that there had been a large amount of triamcinolone ordered into BC and Sky’s then shared medical room in Manchester. She said there was either “excessive amount being ordered for one person or quite a few people had a similar problem”. The Sunday Times later reported that 70 ampoules were ordered.

But now Sky has revealed that only 55 ampoules of the drug were ordered over a four-year period between 2010 and 2013.

It added: “Only a small proportion of this was administered to Team Sky riders. According to Dr Freeman, the majority was used in his private practice and to treat Team Sky and British Cycling staff.” Freeman, the team said, is a musculoskeletal specialist and the drug was quite commonly used to treat inflammation in that area of medicine.

The team added: “While it is not possible for Team Sky to confirm why and when triamcinolone was administered to non-riders (as we would, rightly, not have access to those private medical records), with regard to riders we would only ever allow triamcinolone to be provided as a legitimate and justified medical treatment in accordance with the applicable anti-doping rules.”

Freeman has claimed the package contained fluimucil and Wiggins told investigators that he was given fluimucil on the day in question but he did not know what was in the package.

>>> Team Sky riders rally to show support for Dave Brailsford

However, since that explanation emerged in December there has been persistent questions over why the drug was couriered from Manchester to a mountain in the French Alps when it was available in local pharmacies.

Sky’s statement said: “This is a misunderstanding… As the Select Committee was told by the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, Fluimucil is not licensed for sale in the United Kingdom, in any of its forms. It is our understanding that while Fluimucil is licensed for sale in France, the particular form used by the team (i.e. 3ml, 10% ampoule form for use in a nebulizer) is not available for sale in France, nor to our knowledge was it available for sale in 2011.”

The team also said that Freeman had said he did not have prescription rights in France that would be required to get the drug.

Team Sky’s statement went on to outline ways in which its medical record keeping and anti-doping practice has improved since 2011.

It said it had introduced standardized ordering processes for medical supplies complete with oversight by a second doctor and he team’s financial controller; introduced an annual review of medical policies; appointed a full-time compliance officer, who reports to the board; more extensive rider background checks; greater rider education; and setting up a anti-doping working group of senior management, performance and medical staff.

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Having trained as a journalist at Cardiff University I spent eight years working as a business journalist covering everything from social care, to construction to the legal profession and riding my bike at the weekends and evenings. When a friend told me Cycling Weekly was looking for a news editor, I didn't give myself much chance of landing the role, but I did and joined the publication in 2016. Since then I've covered Tours de France, World Championships, hour records, spring classics and races in the Middle East. On top of that, since becoming features editor in 2017 I've also been lucky enough to get myself sent to ride my bike for magazine pieces in Portugal and across the UK. They've all been fun but I have an enduring passion for covering the national track championships. It might not be the most glamorous but it's got a real community feeling to it.