Geraint Thomas: Team Sky cyclist has 'moral' concern over TUEs

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Geraint Thomas on the Giro d'Italia, his moral obligations, and Bradley Wiggins

Welsh cyclist Geraint Thomas says he feels morally obliged not to utilise therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) unless they are medically necessary.

Thomas' former Team Sky colleague Sir Bradley Wiggins was granted three TUEs - before the 2011 and 2012 Tour de France, and the 2013 Giro d'Italia.

The 30-year-old, who will lead Team Sky at the Giro, accepts TUEs and drugs are a major talking point in cycling.

"Certainly morals and things come into it," Thomas told BBC Wales Sport.

TUEs let athletes take prohibited substances if there is a medical need.

"As long as I do everything the right way and I only have something off the doc if I actually need it or if I'm actually injured, I don't know what else I can do," added Thomas.

"I can't speak for other riders but I just know - everything I do is 100% above board.

"You look at my career, you can see the progression - it's not like a sudden boom and suddenly I'm going for the Giro out of nowhere.

"It's hard to say [about TUEs], especially when it comes to the whole Brad thing. Who's to say he didn't need that or he did? He's the only one who can answer that."

Five-time Olympic champion Wiggins, who was the first Briton to win the Tour de France in 2012, was granted TUEs to treat asthma and allergies, and they were revealed when hacking group Fancy Bears released athletes' medical files stolen from the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada).

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.

However, former Team Sky medic Dr Richard Freeman, who received a 'mystery package' for Wiggins in 2011, told a Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee he had no record of his medical treatment at the time.

UK Anti-Doping chief Nicole Sapstead described Team Sky's incomplete records as "odd", adding she thought a team founded on the premise of racing cleanly would have evidence "to demonstrate any inferences to the contrary".

"I don't think I can really discuss it without speculating, which is the wrong thing to do," said Thomas.

"At the end of the day, everything they did went through the right channels and they got it. If the reason he had it was just to get an advantage or if he did need it, it's only him and the doctor who can answer that.

"I'd like to believe he needed it, because I've known him a long time and I know the way he is. I don't think he'd go out of his way to cheat as such.

"I think the team, certainly when we came on the scene, we were quite loud about being clean and doing this and that. That probably upset a few people.

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"We thought we were better than them and people who were in the sport already - we made a lot of enemies there and that doesn't help. People want to bring you down and any little mistake is picked up on.

"If you looked at other teams, similar things are happening but that's what we've set ourselves up for - to be scrutinised like that. At the end of the day, I think it is good."

Leading Team Sky at the Giro - 'the next stage'

Leading Team Sky in a race as prestigious as the Giro d'Italia represents a significant development for Thomas. The Giro, which starts on 5 May, is the first of the three annual three-week Grand Tours, with the Tour de France in July and Vuelta a Espana in August.

Having started his career on the track - winning two Olympic gold medals in the team pursuit - the Cardiff-born rider moved to the road and played a supporting role for the likes of Wiggins and three-time Tour de France champion Chris Froome.

Seven years into his career with Team Sky, Thomas is now leading his team more frequently and is enjoying the added responsibility.

"I got the track part of my career, the Olympics and, after London, I really focused on the road, the smaller stage races and those that aren't top-tier races," he said.

Geraint Thomas (left) with Chris Froome
Geraint Thomas (left) helped Chris Froome win the 2016 Tour de France

"I have been slowly progressing every year and then in the Tour, progressing each year and being there in the final stages. This is the third stage I guess.

"Going into a Tour with a team like Team Sky, the success we've had is phenomenal, so to be leading a team along with [team-mate Mikel] Landa is a massive compliment.

"You've got to be more selfish [as a leader] but it's a different mentality as well. When you're riding for someone else and you blow up or have a bad day, it doesn't really matter - nobody really notices and you're going under the radar anyway. You're doing a job.

"Whereas when you're leading you have to be on the ball every day. You have to get the boys behind you, you have to be clear with what you want, you have to communicate really well, even if you're not feeling so good.

"A lot more comes into it and that's why, over the last few years, I've led in races like the Paris-Nice and some of the classics as well, and that's certainly helped in that progression as a leader."

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