Former Team Sky rider Josh Edmondson has admitted to secretly injecting himself with legal vitamins, and taking Tramadol during his time at the team.
Edmondson, who raced for Sky in 2013 and 2014, claims that pressure to be selected for the 2014 Vuelta a España and to renew his contract led to him taking a cocktail of victims via injection. Although Edmondson didn’t violate any anti-doping rules, the UCI has a no-needle policy.
The 24-year-old – who raced for the now-defunct NFTO in 2016 but isn’t contracted to any team this year – told the BBC that he also used Tramadol which subsequently resulted in him suffering from depression and not leaving the house for two months.
The admission is the latest blow to Sky whose credibility has been questioned in recent weeks, especially since an investigation found that there was no paper trail for the jiffy bag delivered to Dr Richard Freeman at the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011.
The Yorkshireman says that he used the mixture of vitamins two or three times a week for a period of a month, until his housemate – an unidentified fellow Sky rider – found the vitamins and needles and informed the team’s management.
Sky didn’t report the incident to anti-doping authorities because Edmondson had denied using the needles, and they also feared for his welfare.
Edmondson travelled from Nice to Italy in late June/early July 2014 to buy over-the-counter vitamins and intravenous equipment. He also admitted that he had considered doping, but insists he never did so.
“In 2014 I was under a lot of pressure, not just from the team but from myself,” the Leeds-born rider said.
“I think it was just before the Tour of Austria, I went to Italy to buy the vitamins that I was going to later inject. I brought them all back to Nice.
“I bought butterfly clips, the syringes, the carnitine [a supplement], folic acid, ‘TAD’ [a supplement], damiana compositum, and [vitamin] B12, and I’d just inject that two or three times a week maybe.
“Especially when I wanted to lose weight, I’d inject the carnitine more often because it was very effective.
“This was my way of closing the gap a little without doping. Some people think there is a grey area, and that’s why there is a no-needle policy, but people across sport have been injecting vitamins for years and it is an alternative to doping.
“It’s not the same – if you were doping, you are getting massive gains. This is just freshening what you do naturally.”
“It dawned on me while I was doing it how extreme it was, putting the needle in and making sure there are no bubbles because if there is air in it, it can give you a heart attack and people can die from that.
“It is a very daunting thing to be doing, especially as I was sat in a room in a foreign country alone at night. It’s just a very surreal thing you do. It’s not something you take lightly. You’re doing it out of necessity really.”
Tramadol, Edmondson said, made him “feel ‘dead'” and “hungover.” He added: “The withdrawal from the Tramadol made me feel depressed.
“It feels like you’re hungover, so you need to to just get through and I think the withdrawal from that… just immediately after a race, I was just depressed. I felt like someone had thrown me down some stairs for a few days.
“It was a serious problem for me especially towards the end of 2014. I didn’t leave the house for two months. It doesn’t get much worse than that.”
Sky’s doctor Dr Steve Peters said that the team debated whether reporting the issue or not, but concerns over Edmondson’s wellbeing meant that they decided against doing so.
Having spoken with Edmondson after being shown evidence of the vials, Peters said that the rider denied using the needles.
“He fell apart at the seams quite dramatically. A number of things I asked him during that interview really alarmed me,” Peters said.
“I was now in a position where I can say the welfare of the athlete was number one. Obviously, I’m working with the team and anti-doping is a secondary issue but a really important one, and we have to address it, so Josh explained that he had never used needles before.
“He was in a very stressful situation. He was aware that his role in the team was in jeopardy. We sent off the vials, there was only one that was open, the rest were sealed.
“They turned out to be vitamins which you can buy over the counter, so I asked him ‘why on earth would you?’ And he had not done any injection, he said he did not know how to use it. All he said was, ‘I did not know what to do so I left it’.
“The second point from me is, let’s say we went ahead at that point because obviously I do not want to cover anything up – there is no way I’m going to do that. But what is the consequence of him suddenly being exposed if I’m right and he’s not well?
“The reason I stopped it in its tracks is my concern has always got to be for the welfare of the individual.
“I think I’d definitely have told them if I thought this young man was trying to cheat, but I don’t think he was doing that. I think it was a panic reaction.
“He is making very poor decisions because he is not well, and therefore we need to treat him first of all and then get to the bottom of it.
“But actually to put him through some kind of investigation or disciplinary at that point could’ve been very serious and damaged this lad’s health.”
Team Sky said: “We are confident we have mechanisms in place which encourage a rider to bring any issues they may be experiencing to staff in confidence.
“We are also satisfied that staff are equipped and able to raise any concerns they may have regarding a rider’s welfare, and for the team to offer support.”