The Timeline: Team Sky and British Cycling – when success surpassed ethics (2010-2012)

In 2010, Team Sky set out to win the Tour de France inside five years, while at the same time adopting a “zero-tolerance” stance against doping. When the team failed at “The Tour” that same year, Dave Brailsford, the head of both Team Sky and British Cycling, identified four key areas, such as body composition and performance in the heat, his riders had to improve in if  they were ever going to win the event. This change in approach ultimately culminated in Tour de France victory in 2012 and contributed to the gold rush at the London Olympics. But ultimately only after this change was made, did Team Sky and British Cycling’s doping and ethical scandals begin. Secret positive drug tests, testosterone deliveries, prohibited intravenous infusions and doping doctors hired – a timeline from 2010 to 2012, that itself tells a story of  how Team Sky and British Cycling changed tact.

4th January 2010: Team Sky is presented as the latest UCI ProTour Team in London. They voice their zero-tolerance stance on doping and aim to win the Tour de France inside five years. British Cycling’s Dave Brailsford, Shane Sutton, Dr. Steve Peters make up the team’s senior management. Richard Freeman is team doctor.

28th March 2010: Team GB finishes second (3 gold, 5 silver, 1 bronze) at the UCI World Track Cycling Championships behind Australia (6 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze).

30th May 2010: Team Sky (Dario Cioni) finish 17th in the Giro d’Italia, 36 minutes behind the winner.

13th June 2010: Team Sky (Geraint Thomas) finish 21st in the Criterium du Dauphine.

18th July 2010: Team Sky (Bradley Wiggins) finish 23rd in the 2010 Tour de France after being dropped in the mountains. Brailsford identifies four key areas Team Sky must improve in order to have success at cycling’s Grand Tours; performance in the heat, performance in the cold, performance at altitude and body composition. “It was tough. We had a lot of success, we had been through the Olympics, we had achieved a lot, then all of a sudden this was ‘Boom back down to earth’. You felt you’d let people down, you felt embarrassment, like you weren’t good enough. We narrowed it down to some very key areas and said actually without doing these brilliantly we are not going to perform at the level required” said Brailsford.

4th September 2010: Team Sky withdraws from Vuelta de Espana after its riders contract a viral infection. Team Sky’s soigneur Txema Gonzalez dies from an unrelated bacterial infection during the race. Dave Brailsford says about Gonzalez’s death, “when someone dies on your team, you feel you’re putting riders at risk…for all we knew the riders could have had the same thing… We sat down and realised that as a group of people we did not know enough about looking after people in extreme heat, with extreme fatigue”.

October 2010: Sky breaks with its stated policy of only employing doctors who had never worked in professional cycling and hires Dr. Geert Leinders. Leinders is interviewed by Dr. Richard Freeman and Dr. Steve Peters. Unknown to the public, Leinders ran a doping program at his former team Radobank during which he had banned testosterone pills, disguised as legal zinc supplements, manufactured for riders.

Dr. Steve Peters says about the job interview with Leinders, “we needed a doctor with experience and the guy I met (Leinders) appeared very ethical, very professional and very compassionate. He was also very knowledgeable about cycling, training, the different races”.

28th October 2010: Team Sky add Servais Knaven and Nicolas Portal to their management. In 2001, an expert at a criminal trial, testified that Knaven had taken EPO at the 1998 Tour de France.

November 2010: Team Sky doctor David Hulse warns fellow Dr Richard Freeman, also British Cycling head of medicine, Dr Steve Peters, and Team Sky’s senior management that the planned use of multiple injections for intravenous recovery for Team Sky riders would violate anti-doping rules. “Certain procedures in the protocols are still not consistent with the Wada code of 2009 and the prohibited list of 2010/11,” wrote Hulse. “The placement of equipment for multiple injections is potentially beyond the 50ml limit. This would constitute a prohibited method. It would neither be consistent with best practice in sports medicine nor potentially with Wada regulations. I hope you understand that in the light of these concerns I would not be able to comply with these protocols,” added Hulse.

Dr. Hulse leaves Team Sky shortly after the email was sent in November 2010.

Late 2010: Team Sky hires IV (intravenous) recovery expert Fabio Bartalucci after senior riders complain about the lack of intravenous recuperation.

12th November 2010: A British cyclist, from within Team Sky and British cycling head trainer Shane Sutton’s training group, tests positive for “subthreshold” amounts of the anabolic steroid nandrolone in an out-of-competition drug test.

2-4th December 2010: Team GB compete at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in Melbourne, Australia: Steven Burke, Ed Clancy, Matt Crampton, Sir Chris Hoy, Jason Kenny, Jason Queally, Luke Rowe, Andy Tennant, Victoria Pendleton and Jess Varnish

7th December 2010: UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) are informed by the King’s College anti-doping laboratory that the British Cyclist’s urine sample shows traces of the steroid nandrolone. UKAD’s head of legal Graham Arthur tips off British Cycling management.

13th January 2011: British Cycling are given permission to privately drug test three riders over 4-weeks.

27th January 2011: A coach with the three British Olympic cyclists, training in Australia, emails Team Sky Dr. Richard Freeman, British Cycling Head of Medicine Steve Peters and Shane Sutton: ‘I have given the [doping control] bottles to the guys’.

February 2011: Doping samples arrive at HFL laboratory for testing. All twelve samples come back negative. British Cycling is not able to establish that the nandrolone found in the British cyclist’s doping sample was the product of contamination or endogenous production. 

UKAD does not ask for the test results nor are they provided them.

27th March 2011: Team GB win 9 medals (2 gold, 4 silver, 3 bronze) at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships finishing second behind Australia (8 golds, 2 silver, 2 bronze).

4th May 2011: The UCI introduces a “no-needle policy” that prohibits the use of injections of medicines/substances without a clear medical need.

13th May 2011: L’Equipe leaks an internal UCI ranking of riders according to levels of “suspicion” relating to anomalous blood values gathered under the athlete biological passport scheme. The higher the score, the greater the suspicion. Lance Armstrong only scores a 4 while Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Bradley Wiggins score a 6 and a 5 respectively.

16th May 2011: Team Sky and British Cycling Doctor Richard Freeman orders 30 sachets of banned testosterone from Fit4Sport. Freemans claims the order was made on the instruction of Team Sky and British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton. Sutton denies this.

29th May 2011: Team Sky (Thomas Lovkvist) finish 20th in the Giro d’Italia, 43 minutes behind the winner.

30th May 2011: A therapeutic use exemption request (TUE) is submitted to the UCI for Bradley Wiggins to take the banned corticosteroid triamcinolone via intramuscular injection.

5th June 2011: The Criterium du Dauphine race begins. Team Sky are led by Bradley Wiggins.

5th-12th June 2011: Team Sky Doctor, Richard Freeman, asks Shane Sutton to arrange for a medical package to be collected from the drugs store shared by Team Sky and British Cycling at the Manchester velodrome and brought to the Criterium du Dauphine. A whistle-blower later alleges it contains the corticosteroid triamcinolone. Team Sky maintain it contained the decongestant Flumicil.

12th June 2011: Team Sky (Bradley Wiggins) win the Criterium du Dauphine. Dr. Richard Freeman tells Shane Sutton the jiffy bag has been delivered and that Bradley Wiggins is “sorted”. A whistle-blower says that Wiggins is injected on the team bus with triamcinolone. This would constitute an anti-doping rule violation as Wiggins did not have a TUE to take the substance at the time. These allegations are not substantiated by neither UKAD nor a British government select committee.

12th June 2011: Dave Brailsford says that Bradley Wiggins is travelling to Sestriere in the Italian Alps for a high-altitude training camp before the Tour de France.

26th June 2011: Bradley Wiggins is granted a TUE to take triamcinolone via intramuscular injection. Later, in Wiggins’ 2012 autobiography he says he has never had an injection in his life.

2nd July 2011: The Tour de France begins 8th July 2011: Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins crashes at stage seven of the Tour de France and withdraws from the race.

24th July 2011: Team Sky’s Rigoberto Uran finishes 24th at the Tour de France. Geraint Thomas finished 31st.

6th August 2011: Team Sky’s Chris Froome finishes 85th in the Tour de Pologne.

11th September 2011: Team Sky’s Chris Froome comes second in the Vuelta de Espana behind Geox–TMC’s Juan Jose Cobo. In 2019, Froome is upgraded to first after Cobo is banned for blood doping by the UCI.

18th October 2011: Fit4Sport, the company that sent 30 sachets of testosterone to British Cycling velodrome, sends an email to Richard Freeman, the British Cycling and Team Sky doctor, apologising for sending the testosterone by accident. They also say that Freeman had returned the sachets to Fit4Sport. It later emerged, that Freeman had instructed the company to send this email, when, in fact, Freeman ordered the banned drug on purpose. Freeman also never returned the drugs.

25th October 2011: UK Sport board paper details a confidential research project part of which British Olympians will be provided with ketones, a performance enhancer that was only available for research purposes at the time,in the lead up to London 2012. The project is lead by UK Sport’s head of innovation, Scott Drawer, who joins Team Sky in 2016. British Cycling are involved in the project. UK Sport cannot guarantee British athletes that taking ketones will not cause them problems with anti-doping authorities.

14th December 2011: UK Sport pays TDeltaS Ltd, a ketone supplier, £181k for “research and innovation”. UK Sport supplies ketones to British cyclists in the lead up to London 2012.

8th April 2012: British Cycling finish second (6 golds, 4 silver, 3 bronze) at the UCI Track Cycling World Championships behind Australia (6 gold, 6 silver, 3 bronze).

27th May 2012: Team Sky (Rigoberto Urán) finish 7th in the Giro d’Italia. 10th June 2012: Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and Michael Rogers finish 1st and 2nd respectively in the Criterium du Dauphine.

29th June 2012: A TUE request for Bradley Wiggins to take the banned corticosteroid triamcinolone via intramuscular injection muscular is submitted to the UCI.

30th June 2012: The UCI grants Bradley Wiggins a TUE to take triamcinolone via intramuscular injection.

30th June 2012: The 2012 Tour de France begins.

11th July 2012: Team Sky director Dave Brailsford is forced to defend the team publicly after media reports that Team Sky doctor Geert Leinders was involved in doping practices at the Radobank cycling team. “I categorically, 100 per cent say that there’s no risk of anything untoward happening in this team since he [Leinders] has been with us. I’ve seen nothing and neither have the full-time medics. I’d put my life on it. He’s done nothing wrong here, but we have a reputational risk.”

July 2012: A leading British Olympic cyclist rides away from a doping control officer days before the start of the London 2012 Olympics after being asked to submit to a random out-of-competition urine sample.

22nd July 2012: Team Sky (Bradley Wiggins) win the Tour de France becoming the first rider from the United Kingdom to win the race.

27th July 2012: The London 2012 Olympics begins.

8th August 2012: Team GB finishes the London 2012 Olympics having won 12 cycling medals (8 gold, 2 Silver, 2 Bronze) over second place Germany (1 Gold, 4 silver, 1 bronze) with Sir Chris Hoy and Wiggins, both coached by Shane Sutton, both winning gold.

24th August 2012: US Anti-Doping (USADA) bans Lance Armstrong for life for organised doping on the US Postal Cycling team.

29th August 2012: The London 2012 Paralympics begin.

30th August 2012: British Paralympic cyclist Sarah Storey returns an adverse analytical finding for excessive levels of the asthma drug salbutamol after winning a gold medal in the individual pursuit.

7th September 2012: After winning three more gold medals, Sarah Storey is informed of her analytical finding. British Paralympic officials apply for a retroactive Therapeutic Use-Exemption (TUE) on Story’s behalf, a request granted by the International Paralympic Committee. Storey’s adverse sample is not recorded as a positive drug test. Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman reveals, later in 2021 that, despite not being at the Games, that he was asked to fill in forms relating to Storey’s TUE by Dr. Steve Peters, British Cycling’s Head of Medicine. 

9th September 2012: Sarah Storey is Great Britain’s flag bearer at the closing ceremony of the London 2012 Paralympics.

16th September 2012: Endura Racing’s Jonathan Tiernan-Locke wins the Tour of Britain. Tiernan-Locke is later disqualified from the race while riding for Team Sky in 2012 after being banned for blood doping.

Summer 2012: Team Sky’s Dave Brailsford decides to reinforce his ‘zero tolerance’ policy on drugs at Team Sky. He orders that every Sky staff member, including riders, are interviewed about previous associations with doping.

15-23rd September 2012: Team Sky rider Jonathan Tiernan-Locke is offered the painkiller tramadol on the Team Sky bus by Dr. Richard Freeman at the World Cycling Championships. “I wasn’t in any pain so I didn’t need to take it, and that was offered freely around. It just didn’t sit well with me at the time. I thought, ‘I’m not in any pain’, why would I want a painkiller?”, said Tiernan-Locke.

9th October 2012: Team Sky parts way with Dr. Geert Leinders after he is banned for life by USADA for running an organised doping program at Radobank up until 2009.

10th October 2012: Team Sky rider Michael Barry leaves Team Sky after admitting to doping on Lance Armstrong’s US Postal cycling team.

19th October 2012: Team Sky and British Cycling head coach Shane Sutton is asked for comment by a journalist concerning allegations he had doped during his own professional riding career.

20th October 2012: Shane Sutton tells Team Sky’s Dr. Steve Peters he has never been involved in doping. He says he has suspicions about Chris Froome and Team Sky coach Bobby Julich.

25th October 2012: Team Sky and Chris Froome’s coach Bobby Julich leaves Team Sky after admitting to using EPO as a rider.

28th October 2012: Team Sky’s sports director Sean Yates leaves Team Sky and retires from cycling. Dave Brailsford says it has nothing to do with team’s zero-tolerance to doping policy.

29th October 2012: Team Sky director Steven de Jongh leaves Team Sky after admitting to drug use during his cycling career.

Edmund Willison is a journalist and filmmaker focussing on doping and corruption in sport. You can follow him on Twitter @honestsport_ew or contact him at