Senior officials at British Cycling suggested establishing an internal ‘early warning system’ that could help them spot cheating riders in early 2016 as preparations for the Rio Olympics intensified. Sportsmail can reveal.
Sources say the proposal was discussed by figures like Andy Harrison, Program Director at British Cycling, Shane Sutton, then head coach, plus Dr. Richard Freeman and several other contributors copied to internal correspondence.
The proposal was submitted to British Cycling’s Sports and Ethics Committee, who discussed the matter and agreed to request the UK Anti-Doping Agency for access to riders’ Athlete Biological Passport data.
Ahead of the 2016 Rio Olympics, talks were held about British Cycling to establish an internal ‘early warning system’ to report cheating riders to senior management.
UKAD ultimately said they were not free to share this information due to privacy and data laws, so the plan fell through.
The idea for the plan was rooted in the way global cycling, the UCI, traditionally allowed cycling teams, including Team Sky, to have their own early warning systems.
Team Sky and British Cycling have shared common staff for years, including Sutton, Freeman and Dave Brailsford.
British Cycling has been under scrutiny in recent weeks after Freeman was dropped as a doctor – pending appeal – after a General Medical Council tribunal found him guilty of ordering banned testosterone in 2011, knowing or believing it was to baptize a rider.
Freeman maintained his innocence through the tribunal and no direct evidence of a baptized rider was provided during the proceedings.
In 2014, Team Sky’s internal monitoring signaled abnormal blood levels in one of their riders, Colombian climber, Sergio Henao.
The UCI said at the time: ‘In principle, we support teams that have a policy of keeping a close eye on their athletes. This is something that has been checked by the team. This is their own program and it is very important. ‘
Dr. Richard Freeman, who was recently dropped as a doctor after a tribunal, was among those who conducted the talks in 2016, Sportsmail can reveal
Sportsmail May reveal today that when Team Sky first noticed Henao’s abnormal blood levels, they held a crisis conference call with senior Team Sky staff, including Brailsford, as well as representatives from the UCI and UKAD, and Switzerland-based Cycling Anti-Doping Federation that was in fact the anti-doping division of the UCI.
Team Sky argued at that meeting that with regard to Henao, they were in a difficult position to understand his anomalous measurements, and that further studies were needed to see if they could be explained by his being a ‘height inhabitant.
Team Sky also said in that meeting that they had three options, all indigestible: let Henao keep on racing, but suffer reputation damage if he later turns out to be cheating; suspend him; or fire him.
In that case, he was suspended by Team Sky for investigating blood levels of people growing up in high-altitude environments, or “high-altitude natives.”
This work was carried out by researchers at the University of Sheffield with input from the Colombian Anti-Doping Agency. The findings have been shared with WADA and the UCI.
Henao had been injured in a crash by then, but returned to the competition in 2015.
Fast forward to 2016 and British Cycling was keen to have its own internal ‘warning system’ for their Olympic riders, similar to the one cycling teams, including Team Sky, were allowed to have.
Freeman, with Harrison’s agreement, sent an email in January of that year saying, “ I agree that we are making a proposal to the [BC sports and ethics] committee re de [ABP]
UKAD said they were not free to share information due to rider privacy and data laws
He suggested asking every rider on the ABP monitoring program to voluntarily submit their monthly ABP test results to him “for a statistical analysis similar to that of the anti-doping agencies.” This is an opportunity to assess test frequency and warn of target tests. ‘
Freeman further wrote that this would allow BC to provide monthly reports on their riders that would be coded either green (no worries), orange (some concerns) or red (prepare for a possible adverse passport finding by UKAD or the UCI ).
Freeman concluded that it would benefit both riders and BC ‘to have this monitoring from the ABP, allowing for early detection of fluctuations from the ABP riders’.
The committee approved the proposal and it was submitted to UKAD, who, after some back and forth, explained that they would not share ABP data. The plan was thrown out.
Like the Sportsmail Unveiled over the weekend, UKAD is currently under investigation by WADA to allow BC to conduct private internal examination and urine testing in a non-WADA lab in 2011 following an abnormal test sample by a UK rider in late 2010.