Has anyone heard from Dave Brailsford?
Let’s get all the legal stuff out of the way first shall we?
Ineos Grenadiers say they don’t agree with the General Medical Council’s verdict that their doctor Richard Freeman ordered banned testosterone to dope a rider, citing a lack of evidence that this happened or any wrongdoing by any athlete at any point, but that it is very clear Freeman fell short of ethical standards.
British Cycling also says things have now changed from the “extremely disturbing” days of Dr Freeman, and that the guilty verdict was a “day for sober reflection”, the latest in a long line of hangovers that have dogged not only Great Britain’s Olympic medal factory but also the British WorldTour team’s seven Tour de France yellow jerseys, two Vuelta a España victories, and two Giro d’Italia wins.
It’s also important to note Freeman himself has said since the verdict that he’s not a doping doctor while also acknowledging people “can’t trust anything I say”.
We don’t need to re-hash the whole episode. The weird, spurious claims of erectile dysfunction, the delays…then more delays. Maybe one day the missing laptop fairy will leave one of the machines that went walkabouts under an Ineos magic pillow – it’s hard to think of how else we’ll get closer to unearthing the truth of the debacle, especially with the statute of limitations making another investigation, called for by the likes of Bradley Wiggins, an increasingly unlikely reality.
There’s little point in using the marginal gain of having a brain to decide if there’s something not quite right here, a better question is: why are we yet to hear from Dave Brailsford on the matter?
“Dave Brailsford is the spectre missing at these proceedings,” Freeman’s barrister, Mary O’Rourke QC said at the tribunal. “He would have been able to answer an awful lot of questions about what was going on at British Cycling and Team Sky. He was never called.”
It’s odd that the man who spearheaded both organisations and helped deliver untold success wasn’t wanted to give evidence. Surely there were aspects where he could have broken everything down and improved our collective understanding of the case by even one per cent.
But he’s missing. Five months ago he was jumping in front of the TV cameras celebrating Tao Geoghegan Hart’s marvellous Giro d’Italia victory, telling the cycling world that Ineos were going to do things differently from now on. Less robotic, more attacking, open racing. It’s just a shame this liberty hasn’t extended to a matter the Ineos boss should really be having a public opinion on.
Speaking after the verdict, Sutton, who was said to have given trustworthy evidence throughout the tribunal, says that neither he nor Brailsford knew about the Testogel. Both BC and Ineos’ statements point to Freeman operating as a lone wolf. At the very least you’d hope the mastermind behind British Cycling’s success and the birth of Team Sky, who received a knighthood for his services to cycling, would be able to muster some words about how disappointed he is in the man he employed for eight years.
“If you’re a cheat, you’re a cheat, you’re not half a cheat,” Brailsford said in 2013. With the Freeman guilty verdict, what’s gone on can no longer be described as a grey area, it’s against anti-doping rules and Freeman has been suspended by UKAD pending an investigation. Unfortunately for Brailsford, it happened on his watch. He owes his former and current athletes, as well as the wider cycling world, a statement if not an explanation of his version of events.
Bradley Wiggins, to his credit, has so far spoken the most openly, saying the whole thing “stinks to high heaven”, which if nothing else is the most honest thing said by anyone associated with either British Cycling or Team Sky. A word from Dave Brailsford could help to fumigate the situation, Jim Ratcliffe could even do him a 2-for-1 deal on the necessary chemical supplies.
The billionaire sponsor says he has absolutely no interest in cheating or drugs.
“The day that any of that enters our world we’ll be exiting that world,” Ratcliffe said when the team was re-launched in May 2020. Should Brailsford be concerned a squirt of Ineos hand sanitiser is on the way to rid one of the UK’s richest people of this sordid affair?
For others, there still seems to be too much to lose from speaking out.
Chris Froome says he hasn’t been following the case closely enough to comment and “isn’t interested” in the fact his four Tour de France wins could be tainted by the behaviour inside his old team, while the chiefs of UK Sport at the time of the incident refused to provide comment to the Sunday Times. The likes of Sir Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton, who both would have worked with Freeman, also remaining silent when contacted.
Without any evidence, it’s overzealous to say Brailsford’s silence means he’s complicit, as were calls from an MP for the boss to step away from the sport pending a full investigation.
But if you cared about the perception of your previous achievements and how future ones will be perceived, of the reputations of your colleagues and cycling as a whole, why would you keep quiet?
Cycling Weekly reached out to Dave Brailsford but did not receive comment for the piece