Nicole Cooke 'sceptical' of Team Sky and Sir Bradley Wiggins

Nicole Cooke
Nicole Cooke won the Olympic road race in Beijing in 2008

Ex-Olympic champion Nicole Cooke says she is "sceptical" of Team Sky's drug-free credentials and Sir Bradley Wiggins' therapeutic use exemptions.

Wiggins was granted three TUEs to take anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone before the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France and the 2013 Giro d'Italia.

"Taking TUEs just before major events raises questions for me," Cooke said.

Cooke also told MPs British Cycling is run "by men for men" and its attempts to stop doping are "ineffective".

Wiggins' TUEs were approved by British authorities and cycling's world governing body the UCI, and there is no suggestion either the 36-year-old or his former employers Team Sky have broken any rules.

Cooke, 33, made the claims in evidence submitted to a Culture, Media and Sport select committee on Tuesday.

The committee is examining doping in sport and Tuesday's session was held to discuss issues raised at a previous hearing involving British Cycling and Team Sky in December.

In a wide-ranging testimony, Cooke provided examples of sexism she had encountered in her 13-year career, stating British Cycling shows "discrimination and favouritism" because it is "answerable to itself".

The Welsh former world and Commonwealth cycling champion added that the fight against doping is "the wrong people fighting the wrong war, in the wrong way, with the wrong tools".

"While there is still a way to go, British Cycling is absolutely committed to resolving the historic gender imbalance in our sport," said the governing body in a statement.

British Cycling is the subject of an investigation by UK Anti-Doping into allegations of wrongdoing in the sport and is also awaiting the findings of an independent review into an alleged bullying culture.

Wiggins' TUE timing 'disturbing'

Five-time Olympic champion Wiggins was granted a TUE to treat asthma and allergies, which was revealed when hacking group Fancy Bears released athletes' medical files stolen from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

Cooke compared her use of the steroid triamcinolone with that of Wiggins, stating she was granted a TUE for injections of the drug to treat a career-threatening knee injury as an alternative to surgery.

She said she did not race again until "long after the performance-enhancing effects had worn off", and she added that Wiggins appeared to use the "same steroid before his main goals of the season".

Cooke added she found the chronology of Wiggins' TUEs "disturbing" and that it made her "sceptical" of what Team Sky have done.

The team was launched in 2010 with a zero-tolerance approach towards doping in cycling.

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Watch: Brailsford's tense grilling on Team Sky

Cooke on the package delivered to Wiggins

An inquiry by Ukad was launched following a Daily Mail allegation that a medical package was delivered to Wiggins on the final day of the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine.

Team Sky boss Sir Dave Brailsford told MPs in December that the package contained legal decongestant Fluimucil, but MP Damian Collins, chair of the Culture, Media and Sport Committee, says British Cycling have been unable to provide paperwork to prove the contents of the medical package.

"I find the stance of being the cleanest team, yet Dave Brailsford not being able to say what a rider took, definitely makes it hard to back up that claim," Cooke added.

She also raised concerns as to why Simon Cope, who was British Cycling women's coach at the time, was chosen to courier the package to Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman in France.

"I do find it very surprising that Simon Cope transported something internationally without knowing what was in it," Cooke told MPs.

She also alleged that Cope, a former team-mate of Wiggins at the Linda McCartney professional team, "spent some weeks riding a moped in front of Wiggins as part of a training regimen" as an example of how resources were "stripped out of the women's program to augment the men's program".

'They did nothing for women'

When asked by MPs if sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling, Cooke said: "Yes I do".

She claimed that during her career, the governing body showed only "transient" support for female road riders.

As part of her written evidence and appearance via video-link from Paris, Cooke cited numerous examples of "discrimination and favouritism" shown by British Cycling.

She said the prize for the women's 2006 British Championships was a "tiny fraction" of the men's race, despite Cooke having just won the Grande Boucle Feminine Internationale - the women's equivalent of the Tour de France.

The 2008 road race world champion added she had to take her own skin suit to the event in Italy after British Cycling had forgotten to organise one, having to then sew a Team Sky logo onto it at the behest of Brailsford.

"The facts are they did nothing for the women," said Cooke.

An independent review into the culture of British Cycling began after its former technical director Shane Sutton was accused of using offensive and discriminatory language towards cyclist Jess Varnish.

Despite being cleared of eight of the nine charges against him, the Australian was found guilty of using sexist language in October but denies any wrongdoing and said he would appeal the ruling.

What has the response been?

In her written evidence, Cooke said she had "no faith in the actions in support of investigations conducted by Ukad or the testing they conduct, both completed at significant expense to the public purse".

In response, Ukad said: "There should be no doubt about the determination of this organisation to protect clean sport; our staff passionately believe in protecting everyone's right to clean, fair and honest competition.

Regarding Cooke's accusations of sexism, British Cycling said in a statement: "There is always more that can be done and we strive to make continual improvements to ensure that cycling is reaching out to women and girls of all ages and abilities."

Meanwhile, UK Sport has launched an independent review to investigate some of the issues raised by Cooke.

"UK Sport takes its responsibilities as an investor of public funds and a champion of equality in sport very seriously," said a spokesman.

"On matters raised relating to the governance of the national governing body, UK Sport and Sport England have recently published a new code for sports governance which raises the bar for the requirements around governance that all sports bodies who receive public funding will need to address and comply to."

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