By Martyn Herman
ALCUDIA, Mallorca (Reuters) – Team Sky unveiled the sleek black machine they hope will propel Chris Froome to a fourth Tour de France triumph but the contents of a humble jiffy bag was the main talking point as their Mallorca pre-season camp continued under a cloud on Tuesday.
After a handful of media got the low-down on the latest bicycle to roll out of the Pinarello factory – the Dogma F10 -team boss Dave Brailsford was again weighed down by questions regarding the ongoing UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) investigation into a package delivered to Bradley Wiggins six years ago.
Brailsford’s appearance in front of a British Parliamentary committee last month, when he was cross-examined about what exactly was in the package which arrived at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine, as well as his team’s use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), failed to dispel suspicions of wrongdoing.
So much so that last week UKAD’s outgoing chairman David Kenworthy described the evidence given by Brailsford, together with Team Sky’s former head coach Shane Sutton, as “disappointing” and “extraordinary”.
Brailsford, who told the Culture Media and Sport committee on Dec. 19 that as far as he was aware the delivery was a WADA-approved flu remedy called Fluimucil, hit back on Tuesday, accusing Kenworthy of double standards.
“I was very surprised he (Kenworthy) came out with those comments,” Brailsford, the brains behind Britain’s rise to cycling dominance and the Tour de France victories of Wiggins and Chris Froome, told Reuters at the team hotel.
“I think most people would say let’s wait until the process has come to a conclusion.
“We were asked to respect that process, which we have. For the chair of that organization (UKAD) to make comments, very interesting comments let’s say, saying it’s extraordinary, then the only extraordinary thing is that he made the comments in the first place,” Brailsford, who complained to UKAD, added.
“If we are all being held to account in terms of the highest standards and process, then we should see that process through. It feels like it’s been a little confused by people jumping in and talking about it halfway through.”
Quizzed further by reporters in the hotel lobby, Brailsford said Sky’s compliance structures were “second to none” and that he would continue focusing on “doing things the right way”.
However, he said his eyes could not be everywhere.
“They are out training today and I don’t know everything they are doing,” he said. “What I do know is our values, what we are trying to achieve, our processes.
“You put things in place and you expect people then to take personal accountability. If someone steps outside of that they deserve everything coming at them. I have no mercy for that.”
Asked how he was dealing with the crisis, Brailsford added: “You look yourself in the mirror and try to make sure you’ve been professional, accountable, made the right decisions.
“For me, it’s a question of being calm.”
Three-times Tour de France champion Chris Froome was not in Mallorca, having completed his training for the season-opening Tour Down Under at the team’s Monaco camp.
Asked about the ongoing controversy last week, Froome offered guarded support for Brailsford. He also said he had turned down the option of using a TUE on the way to winning the 2015 Tour because it felt morally wrong.
Brailsford said he sympathized with Froome’s stance, saying the issue of TUEs needed to be more transparent.
“(Chris) is on to something there. What everyone needs is real clarity about the TUE process,” Brailsford said.
“The process has to be as robust as possible and the onus has to be on the authorities to make sure that if they sign something off nothing reflects badly on the athlete.”
TUEs, which allow athletes to take a banned substance on medical grounds, have been under scrutiny since the hacking site Fancy Bears published athletes’ private medical records.
The hack revealed that 2012 Tour champion and five-times Olympic gold medalist Wiggins was given a TUE for the powerful anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone before the 2011 Tour, his 2012 triumph and the 2013 Giro d’Italia to treat asthma.
Asked if the legacy of the recently-retired Wiggins had been tarnished, Brailsford said: “I can’t judge that. I don’t know how others will judge him.
“I wouldn’t forget he has had a very long career of performing at the highest level with no problems.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)