The news that former Team Sky and British Cycling chief doctor Richard Freeman was found guilty of ordering testosterone, a banned substance, is big and got splashed all over the British press last weekend. There’s mystery as to who the hormone patches were intended for, and there’s now a circular firing squad of quotes from those in and around Team Sky. Away from the noise is the very real issue of a live anti-doping case as possession is a breach of the WADA Code and a case should be opened.

Note this is a procedural hearing about Dr Freeman’s fitness to work as a medic in the UK rather than an anti-doping investigation. Also, the tardy hearings may not be over, since it is still possible Freeman overturns the verdict.

The latest news was treated like a bombshell by the UK media with newspapers leading their sports pages with the Freeman story over the weekend. But it’s a bomb that exploded inside the same crater formed by previous news bombshells: think of the initial cover-up over the testosterone package; the Jiffy bag and the contradictory accounts; the leaked TUEs; Tramadol use and denial, a matrix of grudges, the employment tribunals, the zero tolerance policy; and the stolen laptop which, for a team with a large medical team and supposedly focused on detail, was amazingly the sole storage for the star rider’s medical records, with no shared drive, no cloud, no backup. But all of this we’ve known for a long time; the crater is large. We’ve seen a tendency to cover-up or explain ex post in the media, as well as the medicalisation of performance, and this is all awkward, but there’s been nothing illegal, no anti-doping conviction…

…which brings us to the testosterone delivery, which is very different. This may not look like a smoking gun in the dramatic sense as we don’t know what happened to the sachets, and more importantly, on whom they were used. Britain’s Telegraph newspaper headlines “Two Months to Catch Freeman Cyclist” given the countdown for the statute of limitations. Now, if a cyclist was involved, it would be good to get to the bottom of this. But crucially, an anti-doping agency doesn’t have to, or at least not first. Because if there’s no smoke curling out from the end of the barrel and a dead body on the floor, ordering a box of banned hormones is the equivalent of buying a gun in a country where firearms are banned. Under the WADA Code, attempted use of a banned substance is treated the same as use; as is complicity if there is any attempted cover-up. More directly, possession of a banned substance by support staff is a breach of the Code. Here’s the 2009 WADA Code, the version at the time when the illicit package was intercepted:

2.6.2 Possession by an Athlete Support Personnel In-Competition of any Prohibited Method or any Prohibited Substance, or Possession by an Athlete Support Personnel Out-of-Competition of any Prohibited Method or any Prohibited Substance which is prohibited Out-of-Competition in connection with an Athlete, Competition or training…

So, to prolong the gun analogy, there doesn’t have to be a murder, nor even a shot fired to initiate a prosecution here. Holding the gun is enough: the test is whether a team member was in possession of a banned substance and remember we’re talking the chief doctor of Team Sky, not some part time soigneur. The Code adds there can be acceptable justification for possession by team staff, but this puts the onus on the medic for the justification, and there is a comment note below the rule to say giving it to a friend or relative is not acceptable. So, the Shane Sutton erectile dysfunction hypothesis is a tough one to argue, unless Freeman or someone else can provide medical records showing a diagnosis, perhaps a second opinion and a third party prescribing testosterone… and then accounting why it was sent to a cycling HQ.

Amid the grinding of axes and calls for enquiries, there are many avenues to explore. There’s one path to take right away as under the WADA Code, possession of a banned substance is sufficient and necessary to open an anti-doping investigation and Richard Freeman would need to show acceptable justification or face a ban.

139 thoughts on “Possession”

  1. And Leinders. And Henao’s (still unpublished?) research paper. And WADA’s love letter changing salbutamol’s rules for Froomey, out of (still unpublished?!) unspecified science.
    I believe that we won’t see much of an antidoping conviction unless some sanctioning institution external to the sport (and quite probably not related to WADA, either) stumbles on a crazy horse à la Landis, in case there’s one with something to say.
    The three or four “accidents” which made visible the tip of the iceberg during Lance’s career are being radically outnumbered. Yet, as we all remember, the man had ended his first career unscathed.

    Who knows. Sometimes one must be content with opinions alone.

    What’s generally worrying is the level of institutional entangling which all these stories have in common. It’s lack of transparency, lack of accountability, lack of coherence throughout a whole structure (or two) and the main figures or organisations which should be in charge of surveilling.

    • We might not have to look far for the crazy horse. Wiggins seems to have gone a fair bit off the rails since this all started kicking off. If you’re not sure what I mean have a look at his Instagram.
      The idea that testosterone would be ordered by a cycling team and not used on a rider seems like a pretty long story. And looking back on it now that Wiggins was coached by Sutton and Froome by Julich, both ex dopers from cyclings murky past, doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence either.

      • The “it wasn’t for the riders” has been used before in the sport, think actovegin at US Postal and there have been more with “diabetic” mechanics etc but as the WADA Code makes clear, if an athlete support staff is found with a banned substance there has to be an “acceptable justification” or otherwise possession is anti-doping violation, and when possession is seen inside a team or governing body’s offices too.

        • ‘in connection with an Athlete’ appears within the same sentence, so I think just as British Cycling were storing Triamcinolone at the velodrome, probably during competition too, so long as that handling isn’t in connection to an athlete within the context of 2.6.2 UKAD will only be able to charge if they have a rider in connection with the Testogel. I don’t think GMC’s approach of simply not believing it wasn’t for an athlete will be legally tight-enough.

      • Another crazy horse might be Dr Freeman himself. An interesting article in the Guardian described him as a man with nothing to lose. If his career is finished (and not just in cycling) then he may feel that has no reason to protect those who are currently hanging him out to dry. Fingers crossed!

        • I believe nothing will come of this. Sky have been bulletproof thus far – with the authorities making decisions that go their way (Wiggins, Henao, Froome) – as the wealthy and powerful usually are.
          Freeman has no particular reason to come out and say ‘I did this, this and this, and the team knew this, this and this’ – it’s not going to make him look any better. Plus there might be the obvious reason for his silence – and if the team weren’t providing that wouldn’t they be a smidge worried?
          However, if he does have psychological issues, telling the full truth would probably be very good for him.

  2. Crying shame this sage hasn’t been made into an early afternoon Soap. they could have used the old wooden sets from Young Doctors!!

  3. There are now so many craters that no-one with any objectivity could sensibly proclaim Sky’s innocence. You can add to the list: Wiggins’ corticosteroid use only being before three grand tours (and that being signed off only by dodgy doctor, Mario Zorzoli), Froome’s failed drug test that then wasn’t (with no explanation given), Henao’s biological passport irregularities, which were then apparently fine (with no explanation given – we were told there would be a scientific paper on this), a wide variety of riding and non-riding staff with dodgy pasts…

    Even if it can’t be proven that any rules/laws were broken, one has to be utterly biased to believe that the performance-enhancing testosterone was for non-riders… just like the >50 doses of performance-enhancing triamcinolone were for non-riders.
    It’s just not credible: testosterone is rarely used for erectile dysfunction, and triamcinolone is also not a drug you would give willy-nilly (no pun intended) to your staff – it’s a dangerous corticosteroid.

    It seems implausible, to say the least, that the testosterone was ordered without the knowledge of the team, was a one-off order, a mistake, or even that it was only for one rider.

    Freeman seems to be the fall guy. At one point, we even had the ludicrousness of Brailsford claiming he’d never heard of triamcinolone, only to then claim that he’d been treated with it in his explanation of how this PED was for non-riding staff. It’s preposterous.

    What really grates is that all of this came on top of the endless bragging about how clean they were. If they’d just kept quiet about that, people would care far less, I suspect (it’s not like I, for instance, believe that other teams are clean – it’s just that there is so much evidence against this team now).

    • Why are 2 Slovenian riders the best stage racers now? I’m reminded of when the Italians ruled then americans then the spanish riders. Until doping crack downs or laws with prison terms happened. The english are still getting away with it. None of those countries have special DNA.

  4. A pre-emptive request not to hold another trial by Team Sky via blog comments. There’s literally nothing new here except the testosterone box, via a medical hearing, probably wasn’t ordered by mistake. The whole point of the post above is to say we don’t have to go as far as finding the mystery cyclist (although that can follow) nor speculate much further because if there’s possession then there can be a strong case for a ban.

    • Good point – thanks for the reminder… this is just really frustrating that once again, there is so much doubt over the past decades’ results. Team Sky obviously prepared their riders to the extremes of “clean” (and beyond, likely), public accolades were given, knighthoods (give me a break, for sport?!?), etc. But, it’s the same thing as always. Plus, other sports don’t go this far into investigating the doctors (remember Peyton Manning’s wife ordered testosterone or something the week before winning the Super Bowl – and nobody cares).

      I like Inrng’s approach to this, he almost never covers this stuff. I wish the rest of the cycling community would take that one step farther, and just ignore it. Enjoy the sport for what it is, enjoy the winners (and losers), but like other sports, just focus on the sport for the entertainment – this is too stressful. Life is hard enough, without making our past times this dramatic.

      It’s clear what Marginal Gains really meant, but I don’t really care. To me, the winners on the road are the winners.

      • If you ignored it then the problem just becomes bigger and no one bothers to stop the doping. You have to keep scratching to show the ugly truth. In the same way if you didn’t expose corruption nothing would stop the rich and powerful.

        • We should keep a close eye on this, it’s not sport when doctors are determining the results. It’s just for all the noise right now there’s nothing new here, except the assertion from the hearings that the testogel was ordered by Dr Freeman. I’ve seen it many times before where entrenched pro and anti Sky supporters trade comments and the argument goes nowhere, except tempers flare and I’m left paying for the bandwidth. I’d rather readers don’t start with “here’s what I think about Team Sky…” and unload or play guess-the-mystery-rider, but reflect on a what a possession case of a banned substance for Sky/BC’s chief medic could mean.

          • Inrng – I agree – you’re right, we’re all getting off track here. Your last sentence is the only point of fact we should focus on.

            What could it mean? Clearly, he doesn’t have any legitimate reasons to have the testogel package. Plus, Dr. Freeman had to know the WADA code, so he knew it was a clear violation of the code. Therefore, if he did this, knowing it was a violation, what else did he do?

    • Pre-emptive requests need to go in the main text not while washing your hands down in the comments section knowing fine well that your crocodile tears will be ignored and that you will do nothing about it.

  5. IMHO this s__t is still pro cycling’s #1 problem. Everyone’s a lily-white, pure-as-the-driven-snow hero when they’re winning, crowing about how their maniacal devotion to micro-managing everything (marginal gains, etc.) is the key to their success, only to then claim amazing ignorance and innocence when excrement hits ventilator as in this SKY fiasco.
    Any captain-of-industry has gotta be insane to put the name of his company on the uniforms of these liars and cheats – the corporate world is already hated enough for its “privatize the profits, socialize the risks” ethics…why ask for more?
    OTOH, the checks are already cashed, the knighthoods bestowed and ill-gotten gains stashed away in tax-havens far from the reach of any authorities – so where’s the incentive to play-by-the-rules you agreed to when you took out your license? BigTex certainly isn’t suffering, is he?

  6. If Freeman was convicted, would there be extended stature of limitation to find the rider?

    Also, how do they link it to a rider? Money trial? Would it decent into a heresy of he said/she said? In actual law of court, witness needs to take vows. Should they be found lying, they’d be charged with perjury and could face jail time. Is there an equivalent mechanism in sports court?

    • There’s precedent for extending the statute of limitations but it’s not a direct copy across, the case of Eddy Hellebuyck, a runner has been used before but the simplified version is it relies on whether people have been questioned already.

      In the UK there’s no risk of perjury as doping isn’t a criminal matter unlike some other countries but not sure about other things such as prescribing medicine, handling it etc.

  7. Not sure what to say. I used to get red in the face years back trying to explain that yes Lance was doping. Of course. This in the late 90s and early 00’s in the US, so you can imagine. (Though I did win a lot of “friendly” bets 🙂
    I imagine this was the same mix of patriotism and denial in the UK.
    The reality is that the vast majority of winning teams and riders dope (and have doped). This can be verified by reading any history of cycling that is not a hagiography. Or if you are lucky, you are in speaking terms with a few ex-pros and they will all tell you (eventually and if you don’t ask!) while drinking a few beers. They will also tell you that a journalist asking a pro if he dopes is absurd: he has to say “no”, it would be professional suicide otherwise. They especially hate the journos 🙂
    So cycling had and has a doping problem. It think that is clear. What is not (to me) is why many cycling fans refuse to face this. (I am referring to English-speaking fans, French fans know, by and large) . They too often fall for the perpetual talk of a new era after a scandal. Taking at face value the denials of the people who run pro teams, and taking the procedural shenanigans of the various federations and the UCI is not due process, at this stage, is naivete to say the least, to put it mildly.
    And you can still admire pro cycling and be aware that they dope. It makes it a little more complicated ethically as a spectator, and a little less like a fairy tale, but that’s ok.

    • Don’t think we were all in denial. Usually the dissenting voices get shouted down by passionate fans.
      When people are emotionally involved they get irrational and won’t listen to truth.

      • “When people are emotionally involved they get irrational and won’t listen to truth.”
        I also remember arguing with fans of Lance & USP back in the day and it was hard work, despite the mountain of a) circumstantial evidence and b) personal evidence from various whistleblowers.
        But it can go both ways.
        The honest scepticism of many people curdled into a depressing cynicism, where all you had to do as a fan was wearily shrug that ‘they’re all at it’ and treat every sniff of a hint of a suggestion as solid evidence that you were right. Cynicism as a cheap way to look smart when Rider A got busted. And of course, being a cheap cynic means you could *never* be proven wrong. Anyone who hung around in the Clinic forum on Cycling News back in the day will know what I mean – a lot of keyboard warriors (some of them burned Lance fanboys) desperate to be the smartest guy on the forum and spinning the most tenuous of connections into ‘proof’.
        I’m not defending anyone (too many unanswered questions) just noting that it’s possible to be blinkered and irrational from the anti-doping side as well as the finger-in-ears-I-can’t-hear-you fanboy side.

        • I mean the answer is that we don’t know. Even cyclists don’t know what their competitors are doing. If they did then I’m not sure what cycling (or any other sport) would look like. The fact is that the genie is out of the bottle and it’s impossible to stick it back in.
          In the book ‘Run, Throw, Swim, Cheat’ Chris Cooper explains that the problem is such that you’ll never catch the dopers because a fool proof program costs too much, and the tests they do have eventually end up being walked around because they figure out how to beat the tests, which where you end up with micro dosing. Depressingly, sports are very much an arms race where pharmaceuticals are the weapons of choice. The likelihood is that when you watch someone win they are most likely the one with a good doctor/doping program to go along with their training. I don’t think what we see in Sport these days is particularly authentic. You can shrug you shoulders and say “where’s your proof?” But it’s all around us. If things like the Operation Anderlass are a sad indictment of that fact – while you may point and say that Stefan Denifl wasn’t any good till he doped – the evidence is more suggestive that he was doping to compete, and no one seems to get caught by ADA testing, even when we know they were doping.
          The whole Freeman affair is sadly predictable. Though I think it is some credit to all involved at Sky and BC that so very little has actually been revealed. We have a smoking gun. We have the man that supplied the bullets, we just don’t have the shooter and the body.

  8. Does anyone know what UK Anti Doping’s leeway is, when it comes to investigating this? To those of us looking at this dumpster fire from the public gallery, it certainly looks like they’ve been dragging their feet and would probably not have even started an investigation if not for the Freeman medical hearings.

    This may sound naive, but UKAD should be at the forefront of this fight. If they choose not to be, I’m not sure how it could go much further. The big (successful) doping busts I can think of were made with the national anti-doping agencies doing the bulk of the legwork, think the French authorities in the Festina affair, or USADA in the Armstrong case.

    Conversely, when national authorities don’t want to push the case, it drags on and typically the only thing that comes out of it is a fishy smell with very few sanctions. My go-to example would be the Puerto/Fuentes/Saiz case, that didn’t go much further than what the press itself uncovered.

    I don’t see how it would be possible for an association like the UCI to force a ministerial structure like UKAD to take action, but it feels like there should be some reckoning if they don’t…

    • WADA will have some oversight here but it’ll be interesting to see what UKAD does. This case doesn’t need to be like a big police bust with lots of evidence sources, raids and other spectaculars, it can be as simple as establishing whether Freeman was in possession of testosterone or not and if he was, can he furnish an “acceptable justification”.

        • We’re talking one box of testogel at the moment. When Patrick Sinkewitz was suspended by T-Mobile after a positive test in 2007 it finished off T-Mobile sponsorship for good (although they were probably leaving already). But nobody was talking about collective bans for Germans.

          • We’re talking one box of testogel on top of all the other revelations we’ve seen over many years.
            Without hard evidence, nobody is going to ban anyone, but with this being the first Sky doping-related revelation that hasn’t been explained away, it could open further investigation.
            Governmental/police investigations have had much greater success in catching dopers over the years, and the UK government could decide to get involved due to the way that Sky was so heavily linked with British Cycling.
            However, as the UK government’s popularity is based largely on its nationalistic stance, such an investigation seems highly unlikely.

    • Didn’t UKAD referred this to the GMC. I had the feeling that UKAD need a cause to start an investigation and they are utilising the GMC verdict to do so.

  9. That once-every-4-years ‘medal factory’ hysteria was/is always ugly. Linking funding directly to olympic golds generates paranoia & is begging for corruption, and does nothing for the long-term development of other sports.
    (PS Viagra is more effective)

  10. The idea that this testosterone was for one rider is a blatant attempt to exonerate the team.
    Really, how likely is that?
    I won’t name the person who some Sky fans have claimed online is this lone rider, but it’s a massive shock that it’s a retired, non-British rider who was only on the team for a short period of time.

    • We don’t know, lots of people are going to speculate but let’s leave that for other forums. But from what seems likely one box wouldn’t go very far if you wanted to treat a team, it’s a sachet a day for several days. Of course we don’t know if this one box was intercepted and others were ordered or not but again that’s speculation. The point of the blog above is to leave the speculation out, possession is plenty for UKAD to look into.

    • A bit of perspective: Festina was a car load of EPO, riders thrown off the Tour, the TVM team implicated too, the Tour almost stopping, court cases with prison sentences and huge scandal. Here we have one box of testosterone so far, there maybe more to come but we’re not quite at the Festina comparisons.

      • Actually, things way bigger and uglier than Festina already surfaced meanwhile.

        Festina was organised team doping, but AFAIK with no input from public and/or State-level institutions (universities, research centres, National Federation, National Olympic Comittee). Nor it implied bullying riders to force them to accept doping practices. They had no leverage on the political level to shift NADOs activity as they pleased. They couldn’t straighten up a positive result. And they couldn’t focus antidoping pressure on rival teams, either.

        Surely, we don’t know where this affair should be placed in the vast and varied 3D map of doping practices. To me, it doesn’t look especially good. But that’s a personal opinion.

        • To avoid any misunderstanding: the “things” I hinted at above refer specifically to different doping scandals which surfaced after Festina’s. *Not* including any possible Sky mess, to which they might or not apply as well – to date, we’ve just got a few sparse clues and as inrng said, no need to speculate in public.

          • I mean it’s similar to Ferrari and Conconi, working for and with Olympic athletes to determine a test to work out how to detect EPO. The “benefits” of which were linked to National/Olympic riders and team sponsored riders.
            Let’s not forget that Fuentes reach went way beyond cycling too.
            I’m just trying to point out that the “reach” of doping, like a fungus, is usually far beyond the mushrooms that pops up. And, usually we only get a sense of the size of the problem. We have to make up and draw our own conclusions.
            Freeman has comported himself with dignity despite the allegations and muck thrown at him. Someone with less resilience to this might have started writing some lucrative memoirs or made a plea bargain. Anyway I feel a bit sorry for him as he has kept his counsel as best he can and not revealed names so far…

          • RQS, you say, ‘Freeman has comported himself with dignity despite the allegations and muck thrown at him’. He has lied, lied and lied again. Almost all of the allegations seem to be about his lying. How many different stories has he now concocted about the testosterone? I’ve rarely seen a man act with less dignity.

          • @RQS
            Exactly. And T-Mobile athletes working with universities. And the Dutch Federation concealing doping positives. And Kelme forcing riders to dope. And all the Armstrong stuff, obviously. In Colombia, the recent series of false positives (two words that mean so much there, well beyond cycling…), especially the JJ Amador one, which led to the shutting up of one of the very few *clean* teams in cycling, Manzana Postobon.
            And so on and on. It’s a very long list, and running … Festina is nearly naive.

            (Besides that, not sure about Freeman’s dignity, frankly)

  11. All of the speculative links have been to Sky. Why does no one talk about BC and the track riders of that era? Who is the most successful British Olympian of all time?

    • Yes, the track programme counts too. It could be someone very successful, but equally someone not famous at all. But again, speculation is for other forums, here we have a case of possession to investigate and related questions, for example if BC or Sky management knew about this possession and potential WADA Code breach, what enquiries did they make, did they report it to UKAD… or were others involved in any complicity or cover-up?

    • This entanglement of Team Sky and the national squad with public funding is a whole scandal in itself. Resources were ‘spread’ or ‘allocated’ in ways which the public funding never allowed. A Price Waterhouse report into this was back burnered, but it could actually turn out to be the way in which real prosecutions could be made to stick, a bit like Al Capone being done for mail fraud.
      Whatever, the whole programme is tainted. It’s not OK to say ‘our tactics have changed in favour of open racing’ when the dominance you previously enjoyed was only busted by anti-doping.

  12. I am really not sure what any WADA / UKAD investigation would achieve. Richard Freeman is never going to practice sports medicine ever again, much better off treating Covid patients. He clearly disagrees with the verdict (which is “on the balance of probabilities” ie 51% guilty, 49% innocent) and the chances of him giving any more information out seems to be minimal. A “ban” would achieve nothing but involve more endless hours raking over the same rather thin evidence. The conspiracy theories are going to run and run abetted by a rather strange cast, Wiggo’s behaviour seems to get odder as time goes by, Shane Sutton appears a misogynistic dinosaur whose time has gone, Dave Brailsford is hardly someone to elicit sympathy, those who fell out with the set up like Jonathon Tiernan Locke trying to settle old scores in the cycling media and rumours of “secret documents” sitting in newspaper safes.

    Unless there is significant new evidence (seems unlikely but who knows), perhaps best to move on rather than endlessly poke around with no prospect of any real resolution.

    • Agencies like UKAD probably can’t decide to drop cases because they’re a bit old or because it’d be awkward to investigate. If Freeman were to be banned – and there is a case to be heard, he might show “acceptable justification” and so on – then it would show rules being upheld.

      • I agree that there does seem to be a prima facia case to “ban” Richard Freeman but what does that actually achieve? Officially he (unless he appeals) has been shown to have ordered the Testogel and has no future in sport medicine. Unless there is evidence it was administered to a particular athlete or that he was instructed to do so (which currently there isnt) it just becomes an exercise in box ticking? Yes he broke the rules and there will be consequences for that, not sure what the point in proving it twice is?

        • For me UKAD or WADA don’t have to achieve political or other goals, they just have a rulebook to uphold. But if they do investigate we might find out more, either directly as a result of the investigation or in the wake of it, for example if Sky and BC’s chief medic is banned for a doping offence this ought to raise huge questions and you’d expect a set up that styled itself as on top of every detail to account for what it knew.

        • Exactly, so there’s zero point in spending any more money on this… especially during a pandemic. So, really who cares, he’s effectively banned, no one would hire him. The public image damage is done too to Team Sky, they’re now notorious, just like Michele Ferrari and Lance.

          I shouldn’t talk because I’m responding on a blog forum, but it doesn’t really matter any more.

          K, I’m going for a quick lunchtime bike ride…

          • They should be punished – like LA was. If teams get away with it, then others are more likely to follow suit. Even if it agitates you.

        • Somebody should think about working on a “5 stages of doping grief” model.
          1. “The evidence is circumstantial, it didn’t really happen” **
          2. “Okay, looks bad, but he’s innocent until proven guilty at trial”
          3. “They all do it, he was just leveling the playing field”
          4. “Really, it’s old news, stop beating a dead horse and let it slide”
          5. ‘Wouldn’t he make a great TV consultant/Sports director though? Who cares about all that old stuff, stop living in the past”

          ** There could be a 1.a. : “Thanks to my magic journalistic powers, I have proof that it’s a cabal, he was framed by mysterious third parties who were politically motivated”. I call it the Phil Liggett Special. Hard to pull off, but when you get found out, there are no serious consequences in the long run, really.

    • But he will not be treating any patients if, as seems likely given the verdict, the GMC withdraw his licence to practice medicine. He will have lost his profession and his former employer appears to have thrown him under the bus. What might he do next?

      • Presumably he will spend the money that Sky have put somewhere for him. Otherwise why would someone throw themselves under a bus like this?

        • To be fair, while he doesn’t have much left to lose, he also doesn’t have much to gain.

          He could tell us who asked him to do it, but any proof of that is probably on the irretrievable hard drive (the one he destroyed with a screwdriver, not the one he lost on the plane).

          But then what would that do for him? Wouldn’t let him off the hook, at least from the medical board, he’d still get his license suspended, and so far that’s the only sanction worth anything.

          • He doesn’t have much to gain, except that he could ease the massive amount of pressure that is on himself. If other parties are involved (and does anyone believe the ‘rogue doctor’ notion?), and he named them, he would simply become the doctor who was doing their bidding.

            And as well as easing that pressure, what does he have to lose by doing this?

            He could also make quite a bit of money selling his story.

            If others are involved, it seems like they would have to be paying him right now – otherwise there would be no good reason for him to keep quiet.

  13. Cyclists dope, always have done and always will. Onus is on the authorities to put in place regulation to try and prevent it. And sanction when it is identified…..Otherwise as a fan accept it happens……enjoy the sport…….and embrace living in the grey, its what makes life fun!

  14. It would be fascinating to know what Ratcliffe thinks. Surely he discusses it with Brailsford but what does Jim want from his expensive toy:
    – results, and not to be caught out
    – a clean team (difficult to define in pro cycling), and results if possible…
    Ratcliffe’s team has not been found out (yet) but Brailsford’s, one way or the other, has. Maybe Jim’s enough of a hard-headed realist to understand the business he is in, and that, if he doesn’t push the limits while others do, there will be no yellow, pink, red, rainbow, spotted, green or any other jersey. Brailsford made that choice ten years ago. We must assume that Ratcliffe agrees with him.

  15. All of this reminds us yet again how ineffective testing and the bio passport are. The dopers are found out when a customs officer stops a car at the border, Fancy Bears, Aderlass, Puerto, Armstrong… It’s only the poor and the careless who get gaught by testing.

    • The passport is still a very useful tool, it has caught some big names along the way but also has a deterrent effect. We need more testing and more passport data, not less. But also all the other things like police investigations, one aspect of the passport is that suspicious data that might not lead to a doping prosecution is now leading to more surveillance and other criminological means.

      • Assuming antidoping authorities are using it properly. Which is not exactly what has been apparent in recent years, at least along with some people who had been working on and in it.

        That said, any effort to limit doping practices will always be welcome. Is surveillance the best or only way? Several experts have been suggesting otherwise. Their opinion now parked away in some desert university hallway with no further media attention. What’s the follow-up to *those* programmes by the UCI?

      • Yes, I suppose the passport at least discourages the extreme dopers. Better than nothing I suppose but, as you say, to create individual norms requires a substantial data population. As I understand it the current testing frequency – certainly over the last twelve months – is inadequate to establish that norm, and thus to identify data points outside it which would indicate with confidence doping.

  16. Okay, looks like I will be the only one to celebrate our host’s brilliant humour.

    “A circle of firing squad”, that is such an apt description of the situation.

  17. “Every team or most of them are at it”, “why discuss the results” and so on.

    I don’t see that. We know enough about the past to know that, no, Lance and USPS weren’t doing “more or less what everybody else was doing”. Even *if* you share the same doping techniques as the rest of the top teams, a world of difference still can be made if you can reasonably count on *impunity* while your rivals can’t. It’s like comparing walking on a chalk line drawn on the pavement with walking a tightrope.

    Then, there are the differences in the level of the experts you hire, the political support, the level of logistic organisation, the contacts, the cover-ups, the ex post justifications.

    The “being a high-responder or not” factor is made very little of by the impact of all these different elements. What if you can decide to fire a NADO director you don’t like. Put the pressure on rival teams while you travel with the blood bags in the bus. We now positively know that some of Lance’s doped rivals weren’t actually doping *during* the Tour itself – their programme could only include preparation. No third week refill, how’s that? A very dubious EPO nearly positive kicked some riders out of the sport, while others were just brought to a coffee table in a Suisse town. And so on, and on, and on.

    That’s why the “results are the results” line can perhaps work most of the times, but not when the institutional level is involved.
    Structured doping makes a difference over individual doping with a casual doctor; team doping makes a difference over the everyone-for-himself approach, even if the latter was tackled in a structured way; institution-related doping practices are a level above it all.
    World level universities against small-town general practitioners, vets, pharmacists. Federal structures where you feel safe because obviously no federal antidoping inspector will mess it up there. And if something goes wrong and a folk notes that the King is naked, the convenient piece of stamped paper will be produced (or promised) to cover your backdated back.

    No, at least some results deserve to be blanked. Or we at least deserve to be aware of that context.

    That said, I don’t think cycling can afford any sort of top-level scandal now. The negative impact on UK cycling would be a greater loss than what Lance’s scandal meant, given that Sky and BC have been part of a more general and more organic commitment in the UK which shouldn’t be tainted. The damage for the movement and for the sport isn’t worth.

    • I strongly agree with every word. Except the last paragraph. I don’t think this should be ignored just to avoid a negative impact on UK cycling. Otherwise, it continues. No doubt exposing Armstrong has slowed the growth of US cycling. So be it. No country should be protected just because they’re a good market (I’m not suggesting that’s what you’re saying). It’s never good to sweep history under the carpet.

      • I know, it’s controversial and I myself have mixed feelings on the subject. Yet, for me the key word of the paragraph in question is “now”.
        It’s quite a quandary because of the sport’s statute of limitations: the Olympics, if they work like cycling, and Wiggo’s Tour just got sealed in the books; next come Froome’s (just to name the results with the highest profile), unless, as in Armstrong’s case, it can be proven that the crime was one and ongoing, a conspiration in that case. In that sense, the involvement of the organisational level (as in a chief doctor) could be paramount. But we’re still very far from that.

        However, historical truth can be reached later. I must add that in this case it doesn’t look like that the athletes were the sort of ringleader and autocrat Lance was – in that sense, I’m less interested in personal sanctions like stripped results and so, although the level of privilege they apparently enjoyed thanks to this structure might justify that, in case it was proven. Yet, would ASO ever accept 7 +7 = 14 void editions over 21 years (plus a couple which were turned to the 2nd placed rider afterwards, and the Rasmussen case)? Would they award them all to the runner up? I can’t see that happening.

        Let me add that normally in the sport(s) this works like a couple of cautionary sanctions to minor athletes on the team or a positive for minor infractions, or even just noticing that some athlete is “under investigation” (eventually, with no consequences at all) in order to suggest a little step down to those teams/athletes which are crossing the line by several miles. Quite common in other sports is the *opportune injury* to get a little time off, and if there are technical components involved, you might endure more frequent checks on your equipment.
        Hypocrisy, for sure, but also a way to keep things within certain limits, in order to avoid excessive mismatch and, in a sense, to protect athletes’ health. Of course, that requires a degree of understanding, abiding and ultimately collaboration by the teams and athletes when they get “warned”.

        • I totally disagree. To me the english system is far, far worse, far more damaging than the american one as far as cycling is concerned. Though not for want of trying by the americans, no, simply, because cycling plays no huge role in american sport, so it was not big enough to pull in more major players – unlike in england. In usa it mostly was a one man/one team operation – with support. In england it was national. state supported.

          It was and is very easy to see, that sport in england is a structured means for nationalistic feelings, feelings of superiority and racism.

          That is why sport gets sponsored there: To show it to the „bloody foreigners“ and -of course-to revel in the feeling of showing it to the bloody foreigners. And that is why it was always a dehumanised, abused, sick enterprise. Even the inner-english sport is about showing it to others. It is always about cruelty and superiority and inferiority: public/private schools against each other and then not public schools, north against south, the rest against london, class differences etc. That is why the boil of abuse and harassment has now finally ruptured and so many english athletes came forth with their story of abuse. It always happens one day, there is only so much oressure and wrong, that you can take. It is probably more difficult right now to find a sport federation in england, that is not accused of bullying, sexism, racism, child abuse and general abuse than to find one, which is run in a way, that the athletes feel supported in the COMMON (!) goals.

          Sport sponsoring in england comes from the same place brexit comes from. And that matters. Because intention determines action. When I began to read english comments, I was shocked to my core by the cruelty and the inhumanity of comments, that were made with such a normal voice, as if it would be totally normal for example to say, that someone should be punished for life for a failure. But these people were by now unable to understand the outrageousness of their ideas. Because, if you are always surrounded by cruelty, inhumane behavior and judgment, you do not even understand anymore how sick and wrong it is. It is normalized.

          team sky/ineos always were the embodiment of this cruel, insecure society, that can only feel safe in a feeling of imagined superiority. But superiority needs per se always those, that are inferior. And so the english society always creates these „inferiors“ to have victims they can hate and abuse. In one of my earliest comments here I described team sky as trying to colonize cycling. They were not trying to partake, they were trying to colonize it. Intention determines action -and thus outcome: If your intention is destructive, your action is and the outcome will be, too. This is no random accident – this is (I do not know the english word for it. I mean:Gesetzmäßig, meaning, that there is only one possible outcome) the way psychology and society works. Always. Back then I did not even know myself how apt that comment was. I was just going by my feelings. These days I can put arguments and numbers behind those feelings.

          As I said:Intention determines action. If your whole identity rides on you not only feeling superior, but making sure, that others feel your imagined superiority, you do things to achieve that goal. That is just logical. I mean, if you need others to lose, to feel small to feel good, you will do what it takes to get there. That is just logical. Why should you go against your goal? And so it was always clear to me, it was PROVEN to my mind, that bullying, abusing, doping and harrassing is going on in english sports. To me it was proven by their actions and by the way psychology/human behavior works (to be clear: of course this is not exclusively english. It goes on in every country, whose identity is build on the same thing. For example russia and usa and china, too. In short: All countries, who do not treat human beings as individual human beings, but as assets. The key word here is:Same Structure, not the nationality).

          That this abuse etc. is happening is not an outlier in the Systems, as it is always portrayed, when it becomes public (strangely enough there are more outliers than regulars, if you believe them!), on the contrary, it IS the system. Because: Just as there are rules, that apply in physics, there are rules, that apply in psychology/human behavior. If someone does not see other human beings as being like they themselves, they will not suddenly start doing so, because it is in their job description. This is simply not how we and the system work.

          So knowing all this, I always was relieved every time english teams lost: „At least they did not got away with it this time.“ Not because I do not like them-but, because I absolutely detest the system and idea behind it. I ache for every human being in there, who is a victim, even, if they do not right now know it themselves. They deserve so much better. And the horror is:They give what they have learned to the next generation and the cycle of abuse and evil continues.

          It also enrages and hurts me, when people, like this blog does too, act, as if teams like that were just another cycling team. They enable them with looking away. Come on, nobody with a brain cell can see team sky/ineosˋ results and behavior and honestly think „well, that was achieved in a good, humane, ethical way“. And still, people stay silent and write about them as if these teams were normal teams. They hide behind „there is no proof“. But there is proof. In masses.

          Because proof comes in many ways. Knowledge is proof. In psychology, in human behavior there is no leeway for sudden, random behavior. Psychology/human behavior is just as strict and rulebased as mathematics. A+b=c is the same as for example „feelings of superiority lead to discrimination against others“. Always. This knowledge of human behavior is just as much „proof“ as a video of someone discriminating others. Nothing is random or by chance in human behavior/psychology. So to hide behind „there is no proof“ is just a convenient way to forsake your responsibility and be complicit.

          I am so glad, that so many english athletes have come out of hiding in the last years and tell of their pain (also, I have to admit, a little bit selfishly glad, because for years I was saying all this and finally I am proven right. This makes it easier to fight on and hold on to my beliefs/knowledge). But that by now much is finally out in the open will never reverse what has already happened and punish or educate all those, who enabled it. It will also never give the abused athletes back their innocence, their lightness, their belief and lost years.

          So back to my first sentence: Because of all this, I think the english system is much, much worse as the american one. And anything, that brings it down is a good thing.

          To preempt comments: yes, I did use english instead of british or uk – and did so on purpose. And that I talk here about the english is, because we talk about an english team. This whole thing is not about nationality, but about actions. england is fundamentally not different to usa, russia, china. They are just right now still a little bit more dangerous, because they still have some soft power left. Some are still used to think of uk in terms of „rational“, „lawful“ etc. and so people are more prepared to take what england says on face value. But luckily this already has changed and it will change even more, so that england then will become the same level as these other countries and not able to do more damage than them because of their past standing.

          • I was thinking about cycling more as an all-around social fact, transport included, not just the pro elite sport, which after all is, well!, pro elite sport, that is, a chimaera with a good deal of fascist DNA – the part you describe so well.

            Of course, people won’t stop riding a bike if the Sky illusion is shattered into pieces, yet the negative effect is going to be noticed, given that the “cycling UK” operation was so successful precisely thanks to a close interaction between all the different factors.

            That said, your comment was great reading but I can’t agree with such a determinism. I doubt that action follows in such a straightforward way from intention, and effects or results are even more distant. People suffered through that, and yet through that they could achieve some of their otherwise out of reach personal objectives; plus, both (en)during that, and after that, some of them could provide critical perspective for whomever was ready to listen or read both within and outside that context. Think Cooke (or Varnish, Archibald…). A difficult path for people who deserved so much better, yet a path they undertook with courage and coherence within and against that system you describe. Besides the most obvious examples, there’s so much more to say which adds shades of gray to your portrait – which isn’t made less true, just far from complete.

            Finally, I’d love to know which countries actually refrain from those attitudes or practices. Using persons as means instead of as ends in themselves is a classical definition of unethical behaviour, but it also may fit well as a definition of State, idealised Nation, politics and so on. I for one believe that it’s worth opposing against that on every available inch of trench, and yet individualism isn’t a valid answer either.

          • Thanks, J.Evans (I can not answer you, probably too many reply levels already).

            I just noticed, sadly, that this comment is not one of my best – not regarding the content, but the writing. But it is difficult to write such complex, multileveled ideas into a comment, preempting at the same time the things, that could keep people from reading. And it is all so tricky, because everything is connected.

            Because I wrote it not good enough, I will try to explain the thing with „intention determines action“ again a bit better: Every thing, that exists has a possible positive and a possible negative side, a constructive and a destructive side: Take for example nationality. There is national pride. This is a good, constructive thing. You are proud of doing good together, but this pride does not hinge on the actions of others. So when you lose a game – you only lose a game. You can still appreciate the good game of the opponent and can admit, if you just were not good enough. And then, on the opposite side, there is nationalism, which is negative, destructive. nationalism means, if you lose, it threatens your identity, because you see/must see yourself as the victor and your nationality is your identity. You then can not admit reality, because with saying „I lost“, you would say „I am worthless“. And we do know, that people do everything, really everything, to keep up a mask or save face, for example.

            If you look at it this way, it is easy to see, that for nationalism, people would do almost anything to succeed. While for national pride they must do not one negative, pressured thing. That is why I repeated so often: intention determines action and outcome. Although the point of origin for both is the same:nationality, the meaning of it then gets divided into a good thing: national pride, and a bad thing: nationalism. And thus it is the intention of nationality, what you want it to MEAN for you, that determines the action and outcome.

            And this means:We ourselves decide every day, what things mean to us and -crucially-with this decision we also determine itˋs consequences. Because:Intention/meaning determines action and outcome.

            In the end one can break it down to: Anything, that is made to serve a cause other than itself or itˋs nature, becomes destructive. If nationality is a question of joy, of pride, something, that enhances you, it is a good thing – but when you use it to serve your weaknesses and you make it the vehicle for your identity (which means, you have no, not enough, own positive identity) it becomes negative, destructive and burns everything around it.

            These characteristics go really for everything we do and that exists. And if people would think more, think more about themselves, their actions, instead about others, they could make the world a better place in a second. Really, because it is in truth not complicated at all (this is also why the ones in power do everything to keep us from thinking). All you need to do is respect everything for itˋs own sake. If you respect nationality, you do not try to usurp it, use it – and it can never become destructive.

            Anyway, the main point is: People are not this or that way, because they are english. They become that way, because they learn such behavior from the society around them. And what you learn, you can just as well unlearn again.

          • Anonymous.
            What you have described so well if what the English call ‘fair play’. This is of course not really fair because it is predicated on ‘us’ setting the rules (we only play games that we invented; all others don’t count) and the exceptionalism which dictates only ‘we’ are capable of defining what constitutes being ‘generous’ or ‘considerate’ from a position of such unbearable patronage.
            Thus it came about that the only way to make Sky run would involve ‘whatever it takes’ to win at a game we let slip from our grasp when the sport of cycling suffered a great rift of codes through the post-war years.
            Personally speaking the whole thing neatly encapsulates the English on the World stage, making it an embarrassment to others who have come to love pro cycling for its trans-nationalism and admiration of, yes, just people in sport doing things as a team and solo to bring success. Bring on more diversity, more access to all to make everywhere better place.

          • To Gabriele:

            Yes, I think you can draw this line from intention to outcome. I thought quite a bit about it and I am pretty sure about it. Only, that from one intention come myriad outcomes. So it LOOKS random, because we only see the end of the process or something in the middle, but it never actually is random. In truth the path was set in motion much earlier.

            What I mean is, that every action/thought has an inherent positive or negative intention (or charge, if you like), just like a magnet has a charge, determined by our intention, our meaning of it. And it will always carry this charge, this intention forward and the outcomes will always have the same charge – until they interact with something of another charge . And then the outcomes and actions can become positive or even mixed again-or they stay negative, if the negative charge is stronger . I know, I can not explain it very well and it might sound like a strange idea, plus I try to be brief here, but I am pretty sure I am right. In the end I say, that psychology/actions/behavior is not different than physics in any way. We just are not far enough to understand that yet. Just look, how physics must have looked to the people 400 years ago: Like magic or random actions.

            It is always difficult to believe in something we do not know. If we would only know 2 dimensions, someone could draw a circle around us and we would think we are imprisoned, because we do not know, that we can step over it. It is all a question of knowledge. We always think the world is this or that way. We think of it as a solid thing, never changing in itˋs rules – it is not. It is simply the current version of our knowledge of the world.

            Regarding english sport systems and abuse: I was talking more about sports in general in england (gymnastics, swimming, football come to mind). I actually think, as bad as team sky/ineos and the national team was and is, it was more controlled, because it was done and controlled outside england. But other sports have caused a huge amount of trauma and pain for a lot of people, who-rightfully-have the feeling, that they do not count, that as long as they get medals, everybody is ok with them getting abused (and we talk here about abuse, that often is so bad it was taken to police etc. after it came out). And the athletes think: People cheer for us – and yet we get used and abused and when we complain nobody cares. We are great-as long as we are useful and do what we are told. And if not, we suddenly become „the problem“. This is a nauseating thing psychologically.

            Stuff like that goes to the very core of a being: Do I count? Do I have worth as myself or only as a means? And athletes take this hopelessness, this powerless feeling back into society. A society, that must ask itself: What is wrong with us, when one thing after the other pops up? All this creates so many dangerous undercurrents. It is a neverending cycle. Plus:In such structures it often are the abusers, who get the jobs, because other abusers employ them. As I said: a cycle.

            As for:Arenˋt all countries at it? Nobody and nothing – and surely no country – is perfect. But I see clear general differences between countries. These differences get ever smaller as globalisation forces us to keep up with those, who are at it. But the thinking luckily changes. Because it is all a question of value. What do you value:a medal or a happy athlete, who maybe only gets 4th, but has no trauma as result of their career in sport – which also means, one less traumatized person in society as a whole.

            I hope, I could explain everything well enough!

          • To Plurien:
            You are totally right. You described exactly the point where the blindness comes from: The idea, that you, and you alone, are the arbiter and owner of rules, rights and righteousness.

            And if you have not enough voices in a society, that are committed to truth because of truth (and not as something, you use to further entrench your standing), the whole thing turns wrong, like a glass of water in which you put ever more mud. Till some point the water stays water – but if you put too much mud in it, it stops being water and turns into mud.

            Even, if something in such a society happens, that it recognizes as wrong, what results from it is no reflection, no real empathy, no change, but only outrage, a feeling of righteousness and a quick search for whom to punish and push out of society.

            Because, if you see yourself as the owner, the arbiter of everything, you per se can not be wrong. It simply is not possible, so you do not have to even invest a tiny thought in it. So there is no need in your own eyes to check yourself. A wrong or a problem gets swiftly outsourced to the ones, who were stupid enough to get caught doing wrong (and the ones, who were weak enough to be done wrong to) – and with this action these people do not belong anymore themselves. They are cast out (at least temporarily). And this is key:Every one in such a society knows deep down: You belong only as long as you play along – but the moment you stop playing along, you stop belonging ->And here we are again at a society, that sees people only as assets and not as individual human beings. There is no warmth, no safety->And here we are again at the cruelty.

            You described it exactly: Societies like that act from a kind of imagined god -position. If you are the rules, it is simply impossible for you to be wrong, isnˋt it?

          • Thank you, richard s.! You just underlined all I have said and proved it. Thank you so much for helping me out! Now I wonˋt have to write here more words about it! Nice!

          • You’re obviously a man (or woman) with a very limited grasp of irony and humour, and a keen exponent of mass generalisations. I’ll stick to the cycling if that’s ok.

  18. WADA can be soooo proactive when they feel like to. Even pushing lots of sanctions knowing the TAS will drop most of them. Appealing against discharged athletes. And the likes.
    But how lazy or timid do they look sometimes… Is it because a long and slow UKAD investigation is apparently on?

  19. Rot does start at the top, Sky was a toy of the Murdochs and as such was an extension of a family ego. A family that does a history in dark arts of deception and control. Sky and British cycling has been unfortunately been embraced by the UK public just as USPS team was in the USA. As such is difficult to for some to disassociate themselves from facts.
    You will be stronger when it’s over.

  20. As ever an interesting read. One way to get to the truth might be to interview every member of Team Sky and British Cycling at the time, under caution and with the presence of a lawyer. If they have committed sporting fraud and / or the abuse of lottery funding then surely a criminal offence has been committed. Perhaps offering some sort of protection to the informers might tease out the truth, because we certainly have not seen ‘the whole truth and nothing but the truth’ so far!

  21. I am afraid this constant SKY/ BC/ Brailsford ‘hunt the needle roundabout’ is becoming rather tiresome. There are similar questions, also without answers. which could be asked about current riders, teams, but which go completely ignored!

    Why would that be?

      • Gabriel. If you haven’t already heard the rumours, then I am afraid I am not going to help by speculating on individuals/teams. It would just add to the current unsubstantiated frenzy of alleged doping.

        My point was that the SKY/BC issues appear to attract plenty of media attention, without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing, just speculation.

        • The difference between Sky and these other riders you mention is that with these other riders it is only (albeit understandable) speculation, whereas with Sky there are many ‘shreds of evidence’, which are listed in the original article here and in some of the comments.

        • Wait, wait, wait… what you mean with “heard the rumours”?

          I’m not interested in *rumours*, even less in a public discussion.
          I talk about such stuff with friends, a beer or two at hand, and, feel assured, that sort of fermented, unreserved, private conservations tend to start a dozen years at least before anyone gets actually busted.
          As for Sky, we’re well beyond that phase, which was in full effervescence nine or ten years ago – yet very soon the only doubt left was if we were supposed to endure just a Gewiss or a full US Postal service. That ain’t last long either, given that in autumn 2013 the matter was officially settled by the UCI annual congress in Florence.
          Obviously, that’s a part of the private fun as a fan, but when the alcoholic daze fades, we all happen to be interested in something more solid than *rumours*, *impressions* and *opinions* – and it’s that more rational part which I am prone to share with unknown people in public.
          I should add that the ancestral pub conversations about who’s on heavier stuff, albeit mildly entertaining and compulsory by the force of tradition, never actually get much space in the pub either, given that they’re less interesting than tactics, great feats, spectacular racing and so on.


          Are you trying to say that the unanswered questions about Sky are in any possible way definable as “rumours” or similar to “rumours”?
          Come. On.

          Most of it came officially from them: that they had data about Henao’s irregularities which were going to be published in a scientific review, for example. Same with Tramadol back and forth. Same again with the lost laptop stories: it’s *their* version which is damning enough. Other troubles depend on facts established by different institutional sources: Leinders, the jiffy bag. Or it’s official documents, confirmed as such, which were leaked, as for the TUEs. Froome’s blood values. They were published as official. What wasn’t published is the unpublished science which led to such a dramatic turn in jurisprudence on the subject.
          In short, the only “rumours” here are the “rumoured scientific articles” which one day were going to make us all know why some athletes – who’d been DSQd were they in any other team – went on racing as if nothing happened.

  22. I’m rather baffled by the sympathy shown to Dr. Freeman in some comments, “being made a scapegoat”, “thrown under the bus” etc., etc. Seems to me that he made the decision to be part of the doping, (and very enthusiastically, by some accounts), he could have just done his job, which was to look after the athletes’ health. Others are probably culpable, but that doesn’t alter the facts of what Freeman and many other “doctors” have done.

    • in a team choc full of alpha males I can imagine how convenient it must be to have someone of weaker character basically doing what are were told, without the backbone to say no, and enjoying the associated gloss of the success while all was safely under the surface….

  23. A quote from Emma O’Reilly which, to me, sums it up:
    “The riders, to me, were the victims. They were purely the symptom of this massive problem that the sports directors and the doctors were perpetrating on them. The doctors have the responsibility for the health of the riders on their shoulders.

    “That’s what I had a huge problem with. I was polite to the doctors but I always kept my distance from them. I could never reconcile that these guys had gone to college, taken the Hippocratic oath.”

    • Perhaps some way could be devised to do away with team doctors and their inherent conflicts-of-interest? There should be plenty of doctors involved but they could be an independent team hired and paid by the UCI perhaps? No doubt cheats would have their own dodgy docs hiding in the background but might a dedicated squad rotating around and between teams at events, training camps and the like put a dent in the riders being treated like racehorses rather than human beings? As with most things, the devil would be in the details on how to make this work.

      • There’s been some moves toward this, team doctors are no longer allowed to coach riders and the idea is the leave team doctors handling the medical aspects and not the sports/performance. But there’s still a big grey area in between, when does suppressing allergies become exploiting powerful drugs to aid performance? Who prescribes powerful opiates to seemingly healthy riders before a race?

        • Playing devils advocate, surely it is better that a doctor who dopes them also be the one responsible for the riders health. If the team is not supplying them with the necessary means then chances are riders will go elsewhere and then you have the situation where ‘prescription and treatment’ might cause pathologies which another doctor ought to know about but doesn’t.
          I’d love to take the drugs out of sport, but I just can’t think of a way we can at present.
          Perhaps all teams should sleep in dormitories with other teams and team officials – but this lack of trust would be a humiliation of sorts.

          • “..surely it is better that a doctor who dopes them also be the one responsible for the riders health.” but they aren’t and don’t want to be responsible…you didn’t hear Freeman taking any responsibility for anything or did I miss something?
            I was just throwing out an idea of how the doctors might be re-directed back to doctoring (as in being concerned with the riders health) vs the witch-doctoring (increasing performance with doping) that’s gone on for far too long.
            How many times have we heard it was the “team doctor” who started Rider X on the road to cheating with those infamous “B12” injections and the like?

          • It really shows how cycling is and has always been that team doctors play such an important role, and that everyone talks about them as if this is entirely normal. They should be treating injuries and illnesses, but that’s not their primary function.
            There should be a group of independent doctors, and no team doctors because team doctors only exist to ‘improve performance’, which is not the job of a doctor.

  24. CA,

    Re: CA’s comment way above: “It’s clear what Marginal Gains really meant, but I don’t really care. To me, the winners on the road are the winners.”

    I can relate to not really caring & the winners on the road are the winners…

    *Except I keep thinking about the losers and how they are cheated.

    The level of disrespect emanating from cheaters is unsettling. I don’t care for disrespectful people.

  25. It is important to remember that in the Tribunals finding, they concluded, “Mr Freeman has told so many lies it is impossible to discern any truth in what he says.”
    So is it really worth discussing what he said or claims?

  26. I don’t think your interpretation of 2.6.2 is correct is it? Without a full-stop, the ‘in connection with an Athlete’ would have to be found true. Clearly we already know Freeman stored Triamcinolone which is a prohibited substance in the velodrome during competitions and training and UKAD haven’t made that a charge, so I think Testosterone will be equally fine, unless ‘in connection with an Athlete’ is proven. That’s what I read 2.6.2 to explicitly mean though.

    • It’s possession out of competition of a prohibited substance, no? If caught with it a team doctor needs to justify what they’re doing with it. Also note UKAD are charging Freeman, for possession and also tampering, the medical hearings have given a view that this possession was for doping.

      • I have admittedly no knowledge of this subject at all but, from reading around, it seems that a spots doctor could administer testosterone to athletes under a TUE in very limited and specific circumstances?

      • I read the 2.6.2 paragraph without a full-stop separating anything to simply mean there requires a connection between the athlete support person in possession of the substance and an athlete its meant for. What then makes it prohibited (or not) is then determined by the WADA Prohibited list relating to the athlete. How would e.g. a Team Dr carry emergency medical treatment that is otherwise prohibited? Clearly he’s not ordering what he needs per athlete, he’s stocking up so it’s just there ready for when he might need it.

        • If you look up the rule in the Code there are provisions in the notes for this emergency use but not much else. The “in connection with an athlete” part is immediately preceded by “which is prohibited Out-of-Competition”.

          • I think it will get complicated because that wording has to relate to an athlete regardless of the notes. Where is the connection to an athlete established so far? All we know is GMC don’t believe it’s connected to Sutton but didn’t have to make a connection to an athlete to say it was ordered for an athlete. I recall British Cycling saying Freeman was also allowed to run a drop-in clinic for Staff as if he were a GP, so I think it’s going to depend on UKAD finding a rider and not staff regardless. We’ll see. His lawyer mentioned the ‘appeal’ word yesterday haha!

      • From the way UKAD acts, simple possession doesn’t seem to be enough. There needs to be proof of cover up or the intention of using the product for doping (not necessarily need to connect to a specific athlete).

        The GMC verdicts help the case meeting both criteria and it appears that UKAD waited for the verdict then jumped into action:

    • This is the level of Sky supporters now: trying to find loopholes and technicalities. Once upon a time, they were all about “zero tolerance”. How things have changed.

      • Zero-tolerance related to not doping riders to win bike races and not signing riders with an ADRV I beleive? This is a discussion about possessing a substance that might or might not be in connection to an athlete. GMC have found no evidence of a connection to an athlete, so I think UKAD will now try to find that out to prove the 2.6.2 charge.

  27. Riis Pantani Ullrich Indurain Armstrong Landis Wiggins Froome and others who were pros for a few years then had a magical transformation, along with a Fairy Tale to explain it, from track, classics rider to super domestic to TDF winner within a year. All dopers to me. Wiggins, legal steroids at the perfect time, Froome with paid off “scientists” to explain away his illegal overdosing.
    Sky/Ineos have all the hallmarks of systemic doping for their top riders.
    The doping docs usually skate off into the sunset as I suspect “Oops, where my laptop?” Freeman will do.

    • Hummm yeah, I see *the pattern* here, just curious that Pantani and Ullrich both got a podium at their *first* TdF ever, of course winning the white jersey along the way since both were 23-24 years old and in both case it was just their *second* full season as a pro, which is a pity given that doesn’t fit much with your “were pros for a few years”, but whatever. By the way, Pantani had just been runner-up at the Giro, that same year.
      However, you also forgot to name the likes of Eddy Merckx, who had been known as a sprinter for a couple of pro seasons (“a few?”) before his own “magical transformation” which had him win the Giro.
      As a sidenote, you don’t even need “to me” if you want to point out that Pantani, Ullrich and Merckx were all caught as dopers.

  28. I’ve always said that team Sky and British cyclings approach was questionable. I just felt that when you push for marginal gains and reach the limit. The limit becomes normal and you start looking for a new limit. And then the lines of legality begin to be pushed and people convince themselves that what they are doing technically isn’t illegal.
    An example of this might be a performance enhancing drug that is banned but small amounts are ok as it occurs naturally or is in regular medicines. So you say, well it’s not illegal. Rider A is well below the limit. Let’s take the drug and lift their level up to the limit. Other riders are closer to the limit. It’s technically not illegal. But doesn’t align with the intent of the rule. A bit later you say, well, someone that takes this drug as a medication could technical at times be above the allowed level after taking it. So there is nothing wrong if we take high doses as well. As long as we are below the allowed limits on race day as they are. Then you say. Well he’s above at the moment. Let’s make sure he doesn’t get tested. Let’s make sure his blood gets diluted before the test. If we pass the test we’re doing nothing wrong. Or you say, well, your lungs are pumping and you can’t go up the climb faster. It must be asthma or allergies. Let’s get a TUE and take medication.
    And before long you go from being the straight team pushing the limits of performance to LA forcing a drip into your arm while a tester is at the door.
    I’m not saying they cheated. I’m just saying they almost certainly put themselves in the spot between eating bananas and getting massages and blantant doping. And the sport needs to know where that was. Because we can’t have administrations injecting young men and women just desperate to ride their bikes with god knows what if we don’t know the long term health implications.

  29. Great comment. You described very well the deals people make with themselves, the shifting sands of interpretation etc. Exactly this is how it happens. And this way people can look you in the eyes and say“no, I donˋt dope“. They have convinced themselves, that what they do is „different“. Or done for a higher purpose and this makes it ok. Or „others do even worse stuff“, so they are almost forced to dope, too. This idea has the extra benefit, that you can even offload responsibility to the evil „others“, because it was them, who forced you to do it. Of course this is not cycling exclusive. The mind is a mighty tool.

  30. 130+ comments in March! There’s a symbiosis between media, fans, and dredged dirt now. Take any one of the three away and the other two will be left feeling empty and lost, like when there’s no more Truman show to watch.

  31. https://www.cyclingnews.com/features/dave-brailsford-needs-to-take-responsibility-over-freeman-case/
    The calls for Sir Dave’s head are getting louder, will they make any difference? Based on who backs this team my guess is no….it would be no surprise to me if they found a propeller on the back of the Americas Cup “yacht” they sponsored! “Just Win Baby!” same as the Murdochs.
    Note to Gabriele: why bother arguing with people who don’t have the cojones to put their name on their comments here?

    • At least an account rather than a resignation. It’s happened before too, in 2017 the British media were calling for Brailsford to go. He went… quiet for a while, resurfaced and so on. It’s been said he’s looking to step down anyway but perhaps to another sporting role, either in charge of sports at Ineos or somewhere else?

      The role of the sponsor/Jim Ratcliffe will be interesting, to see what he makes of this as the sponsorship is very much his thing rather than a corporate marketing policy.

      • Yeah, I think Brailsford intends to move into a wider Ineos role anyway and partly why Ellingworth returned perhaps? There’s even been talk of something bigger within cycling itself too, but who knows?

      • Trouble being that it’s just withdrawal of money and reputation for a sponsor who can choose to back other sports instead, but it’s an existential threat for each team and pro cycling as a whole.
        See what a fine line we tread once doping takes hold

      • I think you are right here. There has been a feeling of things moving on for some time. Nico Portal’s death, Chris Froome’s accident, G clearly struggling to keep up etc. British cycling seems to be in good health (or at least from a road perspective no idea about track) with a number of younger riders coming through plus the rise of women’s cycling (which Dave Brailsford has never embraced). It would be no surprise if Sir Dave “moves on” come the end of the year and British cycling will flourish without him.

  32. Froome is the highest paid rider and he will never win another 3 week, 2 week or 1 week race, nor a classic. He can overdose on salbutamol all he wants but the new generation and his injuries assure that he’s done. He’ll still get press for his team this year and maybe next, but thats it.

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