A lack of records means that an ongoing UK Anti-Doping investigation has not been able to confirm or refute that a package delivered to Sir Bradley Wiggins on the final day of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphin contained Fluimucil, Ukad CEO Nicole Sapstead told a delayed culture, media and sport select committee hearing on Wednesday (1 March).
Appearing before the same committee in December, current Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford revealed that former British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman, to whom the package was delivered to in France from Manchester by ex-coach Simon Cope, told him that the now infamous jiffy bag contained the decongestant.
"We have received one account of what was in the package, that was that the package contained Fluimucil – not a prohibited substance and used for treatment of build up of mucus, common in endurance sports," Sapstead was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
"No-one has any recognition of what was put in the package. We have asked for inventories and medical records to confirm that, but have not been able to ascertain that because there are no records."
Sapstead said that Freeman, according to Team Sky policy, was supposed to upload medical records to a Dropbox account that other team doctors had access to. His laptop, which contained medical records, was stolen during a holiday to Greece in 2014 in an incident that was brought to the attention of British Cycling. Ukad have contacted Interpol to ascertain if the theft was reported.
Particularly scathing of a lack of record-keeping, Sapstead added: "Team Sky did have a policy of keeping records, just not everyone was adhering to it. I would expect for a professional road cycling team that was founded on the premise of exhibiting that racing could be conducted cleanly, not to have records that would be able to demonstrate any infers to the contrary."
Ukad have spoken to Wiggins during the course of their investigation. The five-time Olympic champion, who announced his retirement from professional cycling before the New Year, recalled being treated with Fluimucil via a nebuliser on the evening of 12 June 2011 but does not know what was in the bag.
As revealed in a September 2016 data hack perpetrated by Fancy Bears, Wiggins was granted therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for corticosteroid Triamcinolone before the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France races and the 2013 Giro d'Italia. Sapstead claims that more was ordered than needed for those TUEs, which were approved by British Cycling and the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). There is no suggestion that Wiggins or Team Sky are guilty of any wrongdoing.
"Specifically in relation to Bradley Wiggins there was far more than," she said. "I can't speculate about how it used and whether it is used in or out of competition. My understanding is Triamcinolone is considered, not a serious product, but you don't treat conditions with it lightly.
"For that reason you would either think there was an excessive amount of it for one person or quite a few people had a similar problem. It's difficult because of a lack of records to see what duration these orders were lasting for."
Sapstead stressed that Ukad had seen no evidence of any kind of tampering or a cover-up, describing that as an "incredibly serious allegation". Their investigation initially faced obstacles in the form of doctor-patient confidentiality.
Giving evidence to the committee before Sapstead, Cope, who was at one stage asked if he was the "most over-qualified delivery boy in history", insisted that he did not know or ask what was in the sealed jiffy bag that was left on a desk in the British Cycling office. He did not believe it to be anything untoward and saw no reason to question the integrity of the governing body.
Cope presumed the package, which he said he was asked to take out to France by ex-British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton, was medical given that it was intended for Freeman. He said that his reluctance to ask was not due to any culture of fear and admitted in hindsight that he probably should have inquired as to its contents, but again had no reason to suspect anything untoward.
When asked if he felt he had been "stitched up" and "left to dangle" over the package delivery saga, he replied: "Yes".
Freeman was too unwell to make an appearance at the parliamentary session.
Team Sky and British Cycling response
In a statement released on Wednesday evening, Team Sky said they would continue to co-operate fully with Ukad's investigation and remained confident that there had been no wrongdoing.
"Our commitment to anti-doping has been one of the founding principles of the team from the very start," they said. "Team Sky is a clean team. We abide by the rules and we are proud of our stance against doping. Any medical treatment, whatever its status, would only ever be given to a Team Sky rider if it was considered to be medically appropriate and justified.
"We have worked hard to put the right governance structures in place and we believe that our approach to anti-doping is rigorous and comprehensive. We continuously look to strengthen our own processes and systems, which have evolved since our formation."
British Cycling, meanwhile, welcomed Sapstead's comments and acknowledged "serious failings" in their record keeping at the time. They claimed that their medicines management processes had been reviewed several times since 2011 and that they had identified further areas of improvement on both that and the provision of their wider medical services after working with Ukad.
Jonathan Browning, chair of British Cycling, further announced an audit of their medical services provided to the GB team with initial steps taken to allow the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to examine their support and identify areas of improvement. They will also seek Ukad's help in reviewing the GB team's medicines management policy.
"At British Cycling, we are wholly committed to clean sport and I want to assure athletes, fans and all other stakeholders that this commitment is unwavering," Browning said. "For anyone lucky enough to be working in any sport, it is not enough to just be clean, we must also be able to demonstrate that we are clean with transparent and accountable processes including good record-keeping and solid policies on all areas of medical support.
"This is a fundamental responsibility, rooted in our duty to the athletes in our care as well as in our duty to the sport, and one which we take extremely seriously."
British Cycling reiterated that Freeman was currently unwell and that they had a duty of care to him as his employer.