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.
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.