Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Jan 24, 2017 – Cycling is “run by men for men”, former Olympic and world champion Nicole Cooke told British lawmakers on Tuesday in stinging testimony, lashing out at those who preside over the sport.
AFP/Image: Yuzuru Sunada
The 33-year-old Welsh rider also said cycling’s fight against doping was being waged by “the wrong people, in the wrong way, with the wrong tools”.
In more than an hour of testimony to the House of Commons Culture, Sport and Media Select Committee, Cooke took aim at British Cycling, the International Cycling Union, UK Anti-Doping, UK Sport and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA).
Speaking via audio link from Paris, Cooke also questioned British cycling great Bradley Wiggins’ use of triamcinolone, contrasting it with her experience of the banned substance. Both riders were given therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) — official notes allowing athletes to use otherwise banned substances — with Wiggins receiving injections on the eve of the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
Cooke said she used triamcinolone to treat a serious knee injury in 2003 and 2007, when the only other option was surgery, and did not race until “long after the performance-enhancing effects had worn off”. The now-retired Wiggins, a five-time Olympic gold medalist who denies any wrongdoing, used the “same steroid before his main goals of the season”, Cooke said pointedly.
Cooke’s determination to get her points across was emphasized by 6,000 words of written evidence in which she said TUEs were “a very convenient way to mask a doping programme”. British Cycling and Team Sky, who Wiggins rode for, are under the microscope like never before. UK Anti-Doping launched an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing involving the team and the national governing body following a Daily Mail newspaper report about the delivery of a mystery package to the Sky team at the end of the Criterium du Dauphine race in June 2011, a month before Wiggins’ first TUE for triamcinolone.
Following two months’ silence about what was in the package, Sky principal and former British Cycling performance director Dave Brailsford informed the same committee of lawmakers in December that he had been told it contained a legal decongestant. Sky and British Cycling also deny wrongdoing.
Cooke, road race champion at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, was especially angered because the man who delivered the package was Simon Cope, Britain’s women’s road cycling team coach. She questioned why Cope, who was being paid public money for his role with the women’s team, traveled from London to Geneva, via Manchester, to deliver an over-the-counter medicine to a professional men’s team at a time when she struggled to persuade him to set up a training camp for that year’s world championships.
Cooke, who retired from racing in 2013, said it was an example of cycling’s “downright and designed-in sexism”.
And noting how British Cycling “receives annually significant financial support from the public purse”, Cooke said that in her opinion “such funds are not distributed equitably and in a decent manner for the benefit of the whole of the target population. I summarize that as a sport run by men for men.”