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Angry GB stars accuse Shane Sutton and Team Sky of 'muddying' sport's reputation

Angry GB stars accuse Shane Sutton and Team Sky of 'muddying' sport's reputation
By PA Sport

21/11/2017 at 00:08Updated 21/11/2017 at 07:09

Sir Bradley Wiggins has "tarnished" his reputation and "it's a good thing" Shane Sutton has left British Cycling, seven-time Paralympic champion Jody Cundy has said.

The 39-year-old track sprinter was speaking at the National Cycling Centre a day after the BBC broadcast a documentary about the bullying and doping allegations that have dogged British Cycling and Team Sky for more than a year.

During the film, Sutton is asked to justify the therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) that Wiggins received in order to take a corticosteroid before his three biggest races in 2011, 2012 and 2013, including his 2012 Tour de France win.

A TUE is a dispensation, approved by doctors and the world governing body, to take an otherwise banned drug for medical reasons.

Sutton said if you have a rider with a "little five per cent injury or niggle that's troubling them, if you can get that TUE to get them to 100 per cent, then of course you would in those days".

British Cycling's former technical director explained it was about finding "an edge" and said it fitted in with the "marginal gains" philosophy that Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford took from the Great Britain set-up to the dominant road racing team.

Wiggins and Team Sky have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing - saying the drug was prescribed to treat a longstanding pollen allergy - and in the documentary Sutton said they would never "cross the line".

Cundy, however, disagrees.

Referring to Sutton's comment and the fact the 60-year-old Australian quit British Cycling last year when he was accused of bullying and using discriminatory language, he said: "If that's the attitude people are taking to medical things, then it's just not on (and) it's a good job he's gone."

The former para-swimming champion said if you are ill enough to need a drug that powerful you should not be riding and it was "disappointing to hear the TUE system was abused in the way it has been".

On whether a TUE could be a legitimate marginal gain or not, Cundy said: " Finding out where we can have a better set of aerodynamic wheels or a better skin suit or an aerodynamic helmet - that's science and anybody can do that. But this is a medical thing...and a grey area and it doesn't sit comfortably with me."

When asked if this changed his view of Wiggins, Cundy said: "Yes, it muddies the water."

He then compared his feelings to how he reacted when he first heard Lance Armstrong had doped throughout his career.

"It's rubbish and I hate to see people's names tarnished in that way, it takes away some of the shine that you see," he explained.

Cundy's views are shared by Olympic team pursuit champion Katie Archibald, who said Sutton's comments were "outrageous", "completely against the ethics of the sport" and she "naively hoped there's been some sort of mistranslation".

British cyclist Bradley Wiggins waits to compete in the Longest Lap race

British cyclist Bradley Wiggins waits to compete in the Longest Lap raceGetty Images

On how such a comment might affect public perceptions of British riders, the 23-year-old Scot said: "Attaching a term like 'marginal gains' to that sort of practice is also quite distressing because it's almost a trademark British Cycling phrase, isn't it?

"Certainly nobody in my squad would attach that practice to the phrase. So, yes, it's quite frustrating."

This point was picked up by British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington, who joined the national governing body earlier this year as part of its attempt to restore its once glowing reputation.

She said she had "absolute clarity" that TUEs are " not a performance tool".

Harrington added: " I was really disappointed (by Sutton's comments). When people are using language around TUEs they need to be very mindful of the effect that could have on the public's perception and the athletes' reputation."

The former Football Association executive said the rules around TUEs have been tightened up so much in recent years that only 15 were granted by cycling's world governing body last year and British Cycling has not asked for one for any of its current riders.

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