UK Anti-Doping closes Team Sky 'mystery package' probe
No charges will be brought over the doping investigation that cast a cloud over the reputation of British cycling and Bradley Wiggins, the former Tour de France champion and the country's most decorated Olympian.
But Britain's anti-doping agency did express concern on Wednesday that its investigation was hampered by the failure to retain accurate medical records in a sport that prided itself on meticulous precision planning as the country became an Olympic superpower.
The case centered on the contents of a medical package dispatched from the shared British Cycling-Team Sky medical facility in Manchester to Wiggins at the 2011 Dauphine Libere race in France, a key pre-Tour race. It was couriered by a British Cycling employee despite Wiggins competing for Team Sky in the race, a year before winning the Tour de France.
Details about the package were leaked last year by the Daily Mail newspaper and it took months for Team Sky to disclose the contents of the package, eventually telling a parliamentary hearing in London it contained Fluimucil, a brand name for a legal decongestant containing acetylcysteine used for clearing mucus.
But there is no paper trail or written evidence of the treatment and the United Kingdom Anti-Doping Agency was investigating whether the substance was in fact the banned corticosteroid called triamcinolone. UKAD said on Wednesday that it "remains unable to confirm or refute the account that the package delivered to Team Sky contained Fluimucil".
"Our investigation was hampered by a lack of accurate medical records being available at British Cycling," UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said. "This is a serious concern."
Team Sky was established in 2009 by Dave Brailsford, the brains behind Britain's 14 medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, with the target of producing the country's first Tour champion — a feat accomplished by Wiggins in 2012. Team Sky's Chris Froome, his former teammate, has won it four times since.
Brailsford held dual roles with the British Cycling governing body and the team sponsored by the Sky satellite broadcaster before stepping down from his performance director job at British Cycling in 2014.
A shared medical storage facility in Manchester is emblematic of the blurred lines between the two, supposedly separate entities that were at the heart of the case that anti-doping investigators and legislators tried to untangle.
British Cycling said it has now implemented "significant changes" to its management of medical services to establish clearer boundaries.
"The relationship between British Cycling and Team Sky developed rapidly and as a result, at times, resulted in the blurring of the boundaries between the two," British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington said. "This led to some failings in the way that processes and people were managed."
Making no direct reference to the failure to keep detailed medical records, Team Sky said: "We have co-operated fully with UK Anti-Doping over the last year."
The British parliamentary inquiry, which investigated the incident, plans to issue a report by the end of the year. Damian Collins, who heads the sports committee, said there are "serious and worrying problems" within British cycling relating to anti-doping.
UKAD said the case could be reopened if new evidence emerges. Some information on the case has been passed to the General Medical Council regulatory body.