Can there ever have been a more unsatisfactory or frustrating conclusion to such a high profile investigation? There were no winners that’s for sure.
Not the UK Anti-Doping Agency who had to abandon their inquiry none the wiser; an inquiry that highlighted their limitations. Not Sir Bradley Wiggins who was infuriated by a conclusion that found him neither bang to rights or screaming his innocence. And not British Cycling or Team Sky whose reputations remain tainted by a medical head who was either incompetent or, well, shall we be generous and say careless.
Let’s not forget the seriousness of the allegations. UKAD were investigating a claim that Britain’s most decorated Olympian, Sir Bradley, was the recipient of a package containing a steroid, that without a medical exemption is banned during competition. Remember too that British Cycling, the Olympic medal factory which produced Hoy, Pendleton, Trott and Kenny among many other household names, receives 10s of millions of pounds of public money. Your money.
In defence of UKAD they interviewed 37 current or former staff from both cycling outfits but were not able to talk to the most significant witness, Dr Richard Freeman. He’s been suffering with a stress related illness and has recently been allowed to resign from British Cycling. UKAD can’t compel anyone to assist their inquiry; in fact they have few powers at all. With a relatively tiny budget they can only afford to employ two investigators. With no authority to access bank accounts, phone or medical records and limited powers of investigation, this inquiry has exposed UKAD’s impotence.
So does it all end here? Hardly.
Wiggins is threatening to sue for the “personal damage” caused to him but at this stage it is not clear who he has got in his sights. You would think Dr Freeman might be a target because if his record keeping had been up to scratch then Wiggins would potentially not have suffered any suspicion. However, confusingly, Wiggins praised his former doctor yesterday while at the same time criticised his professionalism.
The influential DCMS select committee is yet to publish its report into the same scandal. With parliamentary privilege for protection it may pull fewer punches. Its chairman, Damian Collins MP said today UKAD’s conclusion was “not an exoneration of anyone.” Adding that “a cloud still hangs over one of our greatest Olympians.”
And finally UKAD has passed on its findings on to the General Medical Council which has far greater powers to access confidential medical records. It has not yet indicated whether it intends to or not.
The jiffy bag mystery lives on.