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Damian Collins questions Team Sky's 'good governance' after latest exchange

Damian Collins questions Team Sky's 'good governance' after latest exchange
By PA Sport

14/03/2017 at 18:48Updated 14/03/2017 at 18:53

The chairman of the Culture, Media and Sport select committee has described Team Sky's response to his most recent set of questions as further evidence it is "lacking" in good governance.

The besieged team have replied to six written questions from Damian Collins MP asking for more information about a former doctor's records and their use of two drugs at the heart of a six-month investigation by UK Anti-Doping (UKAD).

Their correspondence has been published on the CMS committee's website but Collins believes Team Sky still have questions to answer.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Collins said: "They appear to be saying that the keeping of records is just a matter for the doctor and General Medical Council (GMC) but I think the team is obliged to know what it is going on too, particularly one that has talked about higher standards.

"It's a question of good governance and it seems to be lacking. It should be the team's responsibility to ensure its medical practices are accountable."

Collins wrote to Team Sky on March 8, a day after its boss Sir Dave Brailsford published an open letter responding to the committee's evidence-gathering session with UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead a week before.

Sapstead's testimony about the investigation into allegations of wrongdoing in British cycling, and subsequent reports of new claims, prompted Brailsford to write "there is a fundamental difference between process failures and wrongdoing".

Winners of four of the last five Tours de France, Team Sky have been under scrutiny since October when it was revealed UKAD was looking into a claim former star rider Sir Bradley Wiggins was injected with triamcinolone, a powerful corticosteroid, at the end of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race.

Thanks to the Fancy Bears computer hackers, it emerged last September that Wiggins was given permission for jabs of the otherwise-banned drug before his three biggest races in 2011, 2012 and 2013. The now-retired rider, who has denied any wrongdoing, did not have permission to use it at the Dauphine, though.

Central to the mystery surrounding what happened at the Dauphine is the claim that Dr Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky medic, cannot find any records to prove he actually gave Wiggins a legal decongestant called Fluimucil because he failed to follow team policy by sharing those records with colleagues. He then lost his laptop on holiday three years later.

Collins wrote to the team to ask why Freeman was unable to use the file-sharing system, why the missing notes were not uploaded later on and whose responsibility it was to ensure he was following protocol.

He also asked from where in Switzerland Freeman claims to have purchased Fluimucil, as it was unlicensed in the UK, which other riders may have missing records and why he believed he did not have prescribing rights in France, hence the need to ask a British Cycling coach to hand-deliver it from Manchester.

Team Sky replied by explaining again that Freeman "struggled" with the Dropbox system but did keep records as required by GMC guidelines. Their response added this was ultimately clinical director Dr Steve Peters' responsibility but did not say why the missing 2011 records were not retrospectively uploaded.

The address of a Swiss pharmacy was provided and the team said Freeman "did not believe" he could prescribe drugs in France but that is irrelevant as the type of Fluimucil used was not available in France.

On the issue of which other riders may have missing records, the team said: "For reasons of medical confidentiality, Team Sky cannot provide the names of individual riders. Moreover, we do not think that it would be fair to put the spotlight on any rider simply because of an administrative oversight by a doctor."

The team, however, did supply some further detail on the pressing issue of who was using the large quantities of triamcinolone kept in the medical store Team Sky shared with British Cycling in Manchester.

The Sunday Times has reported up to 70 ampoules of the drug were ordered in 2011 but Team Sky's March 7 "clarification" said they believe it was 55 ampoules between 2010 and 2013. The team also claimed Freeman was using it to treat British Cycling staff, as well as private patients.

Collins asked how many ampoules were for Team Sky riders and how many riders received the treatment.

Team Sky answered: " For reasons of medical confidentiality, you will appreciate that Team Sky cannot divulge specific information which might reveal the identity of any rider's medical treatment.

"However, we can say that, based on Team Sky's shared medical records, less than 10 ampoules of triamcinolone were administered to Team Sky riders in the four years between 2010 to 2013."

The team added this was only done " as a legitimate and justified medical treatment" in accordance with anti-doping rules.

Collins also inquired about the controversial painkiller Tramadol, another part of the UKAD investigation. He asked how many riders have used it and how much they have used.

The team's reply did not answer these questions but said Team Sky doctors would use it in severe cases and record its use, before noting "Tramadol is not and never has been a banned substance".

This is true but it has been on the World Anti-Doping Agency's watch-list since 2012 and the International Cycling Union, UKAD and several other national anti-doping agencies have been campaigning hard for it to be banned.