UKAD does U-turn on 'Jiffy bag' letters sent to British Cycling and Team Sky

UKAD does U-turn on 'Jiffy bag' letters sent to British Cycling and Team Sky
By Eurosport

21/12/2017 at 14:58Updated 21/12/2017 at 15:18

UK Anti-Doping has refused to disclose the letters it sent to British Cycling and Team Sky when it halted its "Jiffy bag" investigation last month.

In a written response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Daily Mail, the agency has claimed releasing t he letters would impede its ability to investigate offences and leave it open to legal action.

This is despite two senior UKAD officials advising Press Association Sport to try to obtain the letters under the FOI Act earlier this year.

That opinion, however, has clearly changed, which only reinforces the view held by sources close to the case that UKAD has not conclusively closed its investigation into the mystery package that was delivered to a Team Sky doctor at a race in France in 2011.

UKAD spent 14 months investigating a claim that the package contained a banned corticosteroid and it was administered by the doctor, Richard Freeman, to star rider Sir Bradley Wiggins on the team bus, which would be a breach of the anti-doping rules.

Freeman, who has recently resigned as British Cycling's medical chief, Wiggins and the team have all consistently denied any wrongdoing, and claimed the package actually contained a legal decongestant.

Proving or disproving that has so far been beyond anybody, as there is no documentation to show the drug was despatched from the medical storeroom Team Sky shared with British Cycling, and Dr Freeman lost his records when his laptop was later stolen whilst on holiday. He had also failed to share them with colleagues at the time, as was Team Sky policy.

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This absence of documentation, coupled with Dr Freeman's refusal to talk to UKAD because of ill health, meant the agency was forced in November to admit its investigation had stalled and there was no immediate prospect of any charges being brought.

Wiggins promptly issued a statement to accuse UKAD of putting him and his family through "a living hell" and suggested he may sue the agency.

UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead, however, repeated her earlier statement to a parliamentary hearing that the investigation was "hampered" by poor record-keeping at British Cycling and Team Sky that she described as "serious" and "surprising".

This view is understood to have been expressed in the letters in question but what else is in them remains as much of a mystery as the Jiffy bag.

Sir Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain

Sir Bradley Wiggins of Great BritainGetty Images

In its FOI response, which Press Association Sport has seen, UKAD wrote "disclosure of the requested information would (or at the very least, would be likely to) prejudice the exercise of UKAD's functions - both its ability to investigate and prosecute anti-doping rule violations".

Over five pages, UKAD explains it "relies on information provided in confidence" and it cannot jeopardise that because it cannot compel people to co-operate.

Furthermore, much of the information it gathered in this investigation was done so "under the condition it would be kept confidential...and UKAD is of the view that public disclosure would constitute a breach of confidence actionable by Team Sky and/or British Cycling".

This legal threat, coupled with the concerns about its ability to investigate cases, are enough, in UKAD's view, to mean the "public interest" is better served by withholding the letters than releasing them.

The Daily Mail, and any other organisation which made the request, can ask for an internal review of UKAD's decision and, if they are still not happy, take it to the Information Commissioner for a third opinion. It is understood the newspaper will start the appeal process.