Team Sky has declined to comment on how the Fluimucil said to have been delivered to the 2011 Criterium du Dauphiné was administered to Sir Bradley Wiggins. Sir Dave Brailsford and Dr Richard Freeman told The Guardian that they could not comment until after the investigation currently being carried out by UK Anti-Doping (Ukad).
In his testimony before the select committee for culture, media and sport, Brailsford said that he had been told that the substance in the now infamous package was Fluimucil, and described it as “a decongestant that you put in a nebuliser.”
However, Fluimucil is also available in tablet form and as a preparation to be injected. In a 2014 interview with Paul Kimmage, Chris Froome stated that when riding for the Barloworld team, before signing for Sky in 2010, he had (legally) been given injections of the substance for recuperation purposes.
This has been confirmed by the team’s doctor, Massimiliano Mantovani, who said: “It is the only antioxidant that has been tested and shown to work. It was used only for recovery, not to enhance performance, it is better by injection as the absorption is more efficient. It’s a very small injection, about 2-3ml. It was totally legal, absolutely legal.”
Team Sky was founded with a “no needles” policy. In May 2011, the UCI adopted a similar measure, allowing injections only when they are “medically justified based on latest recognised scientific knowledge and evidence based medicine.”
Shane Sutton, who was Wiggins’ coach in 2011, told the Commons select committee that the contents of the package had been “administered” to Wiggins by Freeman, but did not say how this had been done.
Both Brailsford and Freeman cited the ongoing Ukad enquiry when asked to comment by the Guardian.
The newspaper also asked Brailsford to comment on an allegation that the team had been using recovery products such as vitamins and amino acids prior to the needle ban, but received no answer.
Ukad chief brands evidence given to Commons select committee ‘extraordinary’ and ‘very disappointing’
Of course much of this presupposes that the Dauphiné package did in fact contain Fluimucil. The chair of the select committee, Damian Collins MP, said that British Cycling had been unable to supply documentation to back up this assertion.
Ukad chairman, David Kenworthy, told the BBC:
"There's still no definite answer from anyone who was involved. I still don't know what was in there; I'm no nearer finding out than you are.
"People could remember a package that was delivered to France, they can remember who asked for it, they can remember the route it took, who delivered it, the times it arrived. The select committee has got expense sheets and travel documents.
"So everybody can remember this from five years ago, but no-one can remember what was in the package. That strikes me as being extraordinary. It is very disappointing."
Asked about Brailsford's Fluimucil explanation, Kenworthy added: "Well that's what Dave Brailsford came out with at the hearing. But actually, if you recall, he didn't say: 'I know that's what it was'. He said: 'I have been told that's what it was'.”
Froome attempts to distance himself from controversy
Chris Froome offered only ambiguous support for Brailsford during a press conference on Friday. Asked whether Sky’s team principal retained sufficient credibility to defend his riders when they are almost inevitably questioned during this year’s Tour de France, he replied: “That’s not for me to say.”
Asked again, he answered: “You’d have to ask him that. I don’t know how he is going to respond.”
Froome said he had seen little of Brailsford since the autumn, apart from at training camps. Asked whether he still retained faith in him, he said: “Dave himself has put his hand up and said he has made mistakes. I think if you look at what Dave has actually done, the team he has put together, I think we’ve got a great group of guys with values in the right place.”
Froome also confirmed that he had rejected a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) to treat a medical condition during his 2015 Tour de France win and said he had done so on moral grounds.
Having been granted TUEs in May 2013 and April 2014, Froome chose not to apply for one when he was advised to do so during the 2015 Tour, and explained: "I didn't feel having a TUE in the last week of the Tour was something I was prepared to do. It did not sit well morally with me."