Team sky principal and former chief at British cycling is set to face a parliamentary select committee, as he’s been asked to answer questions as a “witness”. In what may be a difficult session for the performance ace, he is likely to asked difficult questions regarding a leak by Russian hackers the “Fancy Bears”. These detailed therapeutic use exemptions (TUE’s) in place at team sky. These exemptions allow sports stars to take drugs that would normally be banned so that they can heal or control a range of medical condition’s. Whilst not illegal, the practice is frowned upon. As it opens the door to potential abuses.
The use of the exemptions is relatively common in the pro peloton, as with many ultra endurance sports exercise induced asthma is incredibly common. Whilst figures are hard to come by, the common percentage is thought to be around 70% so there will be a lot of TUE’s in use.
The issue with team sky is that is has set its stall out as a team which prides itself on winning cleanly. The claims after the hack make for some grim reading, as it appears that a package was delivered to Team sky on the final day of the Criterium Du Dauphine in 2011, which was used on winner Bradley Wiggins. Though Sky’s and Wiggins broke no rules that day, the drug used triamcinolone is an extremely powerful corticosteroid that senior doctors have described as a “last resort” drug. It’s this assessment that has thrown shade on the often squeaky clean team.
Cycling has a poor history with doping, with legends such as Lance Armstrong stripped of all of his Tour de France wins. Such was the depth of doping in these years, that his yellow jerseys have never been awarded to anyone else. Though after the dark days of the 1990’s and early 2000’s it was hoped that doping was behind cycling. But these latest revelations will not help a sport that is desperate to shake off its dark past.
Indeed Sir Dave Brailsford will need to put his best foot forward as MP’s question him over the ethics of TUE’s. So far the message’s from the team have been quiet and unsure. With seemingly the hope that the off season was going to make the awkward situation disappear. But this scrutiny will once again shine a light, and many in the cycling world will watch with interest to see how Brailsford explains the situation.
Joseph is a 34 year old freelance writer from London. He has a wide interest in politics and specialises in the subject. He's also a blog writer in his spare time.