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UK News British rider cycled away from dope test before London 2012

01:40  24 october  2021
01:40  24 october  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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A leading  British Olympic cyclist rode away from a doping control officer days before the start of the London 2012 Olympics after being asked to give a random out-of-competition urine sample, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

According to sources with first-hand know-ledge of the rural pre-Games training camp where this happened, the world-class rider was annoyed at being asked to comply just as they embarked on a 20mph hour-long training ride along country lanes and adjacent pathways.

Instead of submitting to the test straight away, the rider agreed to stay in sight of the doping control officer from UKAD, who was travelling in a car, but within minutes they were gone from sight, returning an hour or so later to provide a specimen. The doping control officer, meanwhile, booked a room to do the test.

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A former senior official inside British anti-doping circles has told this newspaper the incident was ‘truly troubling’ because protocols in place at the time should have logged the incident as suspicious, and been subject to follow-up scrutiny.

Instead, the UK Anti-Doping agency has told The Mail on Sunday: ‘UKAD is unable to comment on any specific activity in its testing programme, and as such would not confirm whether a particular test took place. Test paperwork from 2012 was subject to a retention period of 18 months.’

After a week in which British Cycling and UKAD were lambasted by the global anti-doping agency, WADA, for allowing British Cycling effectively to police their own anti-doping processes before London 2012, the revelation of this latest incident is particularly alarming.

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WADA’s report in effect concluded that the record-keeping of UKAD in particular made it impossible to verify whether British Cycling and UKAD had colluded in a potential doping cover-up in 2011.

The Mail on Sunday can reveal startling fresh details from our investigation that led WADA to begin their probe into British Cycling and UKAD in the first place. WADA’s ‘Operation Echo’ has ended with more questions than answers about British sporting integrity.

In March, we reported that a trace of the banned steroid nandrolone was found in the urine of a British rider following an out-of-competition drug test in late 2010, as British Cycling planned for the London 2012 Olympics.

Rather than UKAD conducting an in-depth review, as was their responsibility, they tipped off British Cycling, who did their own private testing of several riders (prohibited under WADA rules), and of the riders’ dietary supplements, and ruled out any innocent explanation for the nandrolone.

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Such explanations might have included abnormally high natural levels of nandrolone in a rider, or supplement contamination. British Cycling’s secret tests eliminated these, then British Cycling swept the affair under the carpet, while UKAD did nothing, and have no record of any of it.

WADA’s investigation vindicated our March exclusive, and concluded there was ‘potential wrongdoing by individuals in both British Cycling and UKAD at that time’.

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We can now also reveal that the anomalous nandrolone trace was found within a small group of world-class riders, which we will call the ‘trace training group’, ultimately controlled by British Cycling’s then head coach, Shane Sutton, who took a close interest in their development as Olympians.

Sutton told The MoS on Friday evening: ‘All I can tell you now, hand on heart, on the death of my daughter, is this [group of 2012 Olympians], and especially that [trace training] group, was the cleanest group of athletes you could ever want to meet. They wouldn’t even shake the hand of an ex-doper, and I’m not even going to name the person they wouldn’t associate with.’

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Speaking about the individual who allegedly rode away from a drug tester in 2012, Sutton said: ‘This person was the cleanest athlete out there and it’s sad that they’re dragging stuff up about this particular group after what they achieved.’

As few as 10 British Cycling staff were copied into correspondence about the nandrolone episode, from the trace finding to the case vanishing, according to emails seen by The MoS. These included British Cycling’s then performance director Dave Brailsford, head of medicine Steve Peters, Sutton himself, team doctor Richard Freeman, plus two other British Cycling coaches, Jan van Eijden and Iain Dyer.

The latter two remain British Cycling employees, and a British Cycling spokesman suggested both have since had multiple refresher courses in anti-doping protocols. ‘All GB Cycling team staff receive regular anti-doping training,’ the spokesman told us.

Email trails seen by us, and examined by WADA during their probe into UKAD and British Cycling, include messages copied to Sutton. But he denies knowing it happened, let alone being party to it. ‘I wasn’t involved,’ he says. ‘No one ever interviewed me about it. I didn’t even know there was in-house testing going on, and I was the bloody head coach!’

According to WADA’s report last week, Operation Echo discovered that in December 2018, UKAD received two anonymous letters that revealed knowledge of the (subsequently proven) 2011 private illicit testing, and alleging that ‘a coach was attempting to dope [riders]’ at that time’.

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It now seems plausible the 2018 letters were from a whistleblower inside the small circle involved in the illicit 2011 testing. But WADA have found that UKAD, in effect, botched ‘Operation Blackout’ — UKAD’s codename for their investigation into the 2018 letters — and no action was taken.

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Sutton says: ‘I don’t know, this whole whistleblower thing, where it’s coming from. I still believe we ran the cleanest programme in the world.’

Some of the riders in the trace training group, via representatives or lawyers, have confirmed to us being part of the illicit testing while denying any wrongdoing. One has consistently declined to answer any questions at all about the matter.

Those riders have won more than 70 Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth medals between them. The MoS knows their identities but is withholding them as none has ever been confirmed to have failed a drug test or been charged with a doping offence.

The 2010-11 nandrolone controversy is among many involving British Cycling in recent years, and casts a pall of doubt over the increasingly dubious ‘glory’ of London 2012. Team GB won 65 medals, 29 gold. Cycling accounted for the most GB medals (12) of any sport.

‘UKAD should have documented and recorded [the nandrolone case] at the time,’ says WADA’s report. ‘The impact of this failure is magnified by the inability of those involved to now recall these events and materially contribute to this investigation.’

The report adds: ‘Allowing British Cycling to privately analyse samples of their most elite athletes for a prohibited substance, at a non-WADA accredited laboratory, would be inconsistent with UKAD’s obligation under the WADA Code to vigorously pursue all potential doping violations.’

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A spokesman for British Cycling says: ‘The WADA review attaches no fault to British Cycling.’

The WADA review says: ‘The “nandrolone study” raises questions as to British Cycling’s compliance with the then applicable UK national anti-doping policy, and UKAD’s ability to administer that policy.’

The MoS has learned that when our story broke in March, senior officials within the current administrations at both British Cycling and UKAD — where the personnel in the top jobs have changed over the years, sometimes often — struggled to find the truth, even in their own records.

‘It might seem lame to say, “Most of the people involved aren’t here any more”. But that’s the reality. We’re not the same organisation today,’ claimed one British Cycling insider.

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Another source with knowledge of the thinking inside UKAD’s hierarchy in 2011 said: ‘There was a feeling then that British Cycling was a “best in class” governing body. They were given leeway. They were trusted.’

The incident where a cyclist rode away from a drug tester just before London 2012 was ‘absolutely non-standard’, according to a former senior anti-doping official. It should have led to a flag being raised when the doping control officer filed their report on this specific test, they say.

In the same official’s opinion, one of two things probably transpired. Either the doping control officer reported the odd circumstances, but as the sample was negative for drugs and the rider was hugely respected, it was deemed a non-event rather than kept on file.

Alternatively, under pressure that admonishments were common for any procedural hiccups in collecting samples, the doping control officer simply didn’t report the odd events. The official says there was a culture of doping control officers not mentioning such irregularities to avoid trouble.

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UKAD’s relationship with British Cycling has been close over the past dozen years, and arguably too close, say some sources, citing the 2011 illicit testing as one example.

We can reveal that UKAD pro-actively started to collate intelligence on whether British Cycling (the governing body) and British cycling more widely, especially Team Sky, were implicated in doping in late 2012, after Lance Armstrong’s downfall.

UKAD intelligence officers began to gather testimony in late 2012 about Shane Sutton’s alleged doping past, something he has always denied. He told a Parliamentary inquiry in 2016 he’d never seen any evidence of doping in cycling, ever, as a rider or coach.

By mid-2013, UKAD had at least two extensive external dossiers about Sutton in their intelligence files, citing multiple people from different parts of his career claiming he had used drugs or had knowledge of drugs as a coach. UKAD failed to contact any of them.

Sutton was not only British Cycling’s head coach and the architect of British Cycling’s Olympic successes from 2008 to 2016, but also a central figure at Team Sky until the end of 2012, and on their payroll as a consultant until 2017.

Mail on Sunday lead the way and the rest follow seven months later!

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When UKAD launched a 13-month investigation in 2016 that ultimately failed to find any evidence that a Jiffy bag sent for Bradley Wiggins contained a powerful drug, triamcinolone, rumours were rife that Sutton had started UKAD’s probe.

UKAD won’t confirm or deny this, saying: ‘UKAD is unable to comment on the specific details of investigations.’ They added that information gleaned during ‘Jiffy-Gate’ is being used during ‘ongoing legal proceedings’ and therefore they can’t comment.

Wiggins has always maintained his innocence of any doping infringement.

On Friday, for the first time, Sutton denied he was the source who told UKAD that the Jiffy bag contained triamcinolone. ‘A lot of people thought it was me,’ he said. ‘Parliament asked me what was in it and I said I didn’t know because I wasn’t there when it was taped up, [or] when it was untaped. If I said anything else, I’d be lying.’

Accusations of lying have been rife in British cycling over the past decade. Dr Freeman, team doctor to British Cycling and Team Sky for years until 2017, was convicted in March of ordering banned testosterone in 2011 believing it was to dope a rider.

He always denied the charges, saying the testosterone was for Sutton, and his appeal is in late November in the High Court in Manchester. Some of the most dramatic moments in his tribunal came when his one-time friend and now bitter adversary Sutton took the stand and had to deny he himself was a doper and liar.

WADA’s conclusion last week that something was amiss with British Cycling and UKAD in 2011 will not draw a line under these matters. Quite when the truth will be known is another question entirely.

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