British Cycling chief Julie Harrington has vowed to rebuild trust in the organisation following an anti-doping investigation into the contents of a jiffy bag delivered to Bradley Wiggins at a major race.
UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) on Wednesday confirmed that it would bring no charges against British Cycling or Team Sky after 14 months of inquiries failed to unearth sufficient evidence that the package contained a banned substance.
But its chief executive Nicole Sapstead criticised British Cycling for failing to keep accurate medical records, which severely hindered the probe and, she said, constituted “a serious concern”.
She added that the case had been complicated by the shared staff of British Cycling, responsible for huge Olympic medal success, and pre-eminent road racing outfit Team Sky, including Sir Dave Brailsford, who ran both operations when the jiffy bag was sent in 2011.
Brailsford, who has since left British Cycling, told MPs last year that the package contained the permitted decongestant Fluimucil and not, as has been alleged, the corticosteroid triamcinolone.
British Cycling chief executive Harrington welcomed the outcome of UKAD’s investigation, which she called “essential if we are to earn and retain the trust of athletes and fans”.
“UKAD’s findings represent an organisation and culture that, despite delivering on the world stage, did not meet the high standards that British Cycling today holds itself to,” she added.
UKAD was unable to confirm whether Fluimucil – a product available over the counter in France, where Wiggins was competing at the Criterium du Dauphine – was in the jiffy bag despatched by doctor Richard Freeman.
Freeman, who until 2015 worked for both British Cycling and Team Sky, did not give evidence to investigators, citing illness. He stepped down from his post at British Cycling, where he faced disciplinary action over his failure to keep accurate records, last month.
Harrington added: “We are intent on ensuring that the integrity of our record keeping is never called into question again.”
Wiggins, Britain’s most decorated Olympian and a Tour de France winner, has always denied knowing what was in the package despatched to him at the Dauphine, which he won. Former British Cycling coach Simon Cope, who delivered the jiffy bag by hand, has also said that he did not know its contents.
“To say I am disappointed by some of the comments made by UKAD is an understatement,” said Wiggins.
“No evidence exists to prove a case against me and in all other circumstances this would be an unqualified finding of innocence.
“Being accused of any doping indiscretion is the worst possible thing for any professional sportsperson, especially when it is without any solid factual basis and you know the allegation to be categorically untrue.
“This period of time has been a living hell for me and my family, full of innuendo and speculation. At times it has felt nothing less than a malicious witch hunt.”
Team Sky said on Wednesday that it had “always maintained there had been no wrongdoing”. It added: “Since our inception as a new pro cycling team in 2010 we have continually strengthened our systems and processes so they best support our strong commitment to anti-doping.”
Sapstead said: “Our investigation was hampered by a lack of accurate medical records being available at British Cycling. This is a serious concern. As part of their conditions to receive public funding from UK Sport and other home country sports councils, all sports governing bodies must comply with the UK national anti-doping policy.”