LONDON (AP) — British cycling is shrouded in a cloud that "relates to doping," a legislator said Monday, prompting a defiant defense of its integrity by the architects of the country's successful Olympic and Tour de France programs.
Most of the questioning of Team Sky and British Cycling leaders during testy exchanges at British parliamentary doping hearings related to a medical package sent to star rider Bradley Wiggins five years ago.
Team Sky head Dave Brailsford ended two months of mystery surrounding the package — that was hand delivered from England to the 2011 Dauphine Libere race in France by British Cycling employee Simon Cope — by disclosing that it was a legal decongestant.
But Brailsford could not say whether there was written evidence that Fluimucil, a brand name for a product containing acetylcysteine used for clearing mucus, was in the package that is being investigated by Britain's anti-doping agency.
"It's what Dr. (Richard) Freeman has told me," Brailsford told the culture, media and sport committee in the House of Commons, referencing the Team Sky doctor.
The hearing earlier heard that the contents of the package were administered to Wiggins, who won the 2011 Dauphine Libere.
Brailsford did not say why Fluimucil could not be obtained in France. He maintained that the route was not "convoluted" and that Cope carrying the package was the "easiest possible way."
Brailsford's revelation came after former Team Sky head coach Shane Sutton was questioned by legislators about why he did not ask colleagues about the substance in the package. Sutton expressed frustration that Team Sky's integrity was being questioned by committee member Ian Lucas.
"British cycling is more successful than it has ever been and there's a cloud over it at the moment and that's why you are here today," Lucas said, "and the cloud relates to doping and there's a suspicion now."
Sutton insisted the team's record was "unblemished" and there has been "no wrongdoing by Brad Wiggins and Team Sky."
"You are sitting there and being British should be embracing the success they have achieved and how they have achieved it, not looking for something that is not there," Sutton said to Lucas. "This team from Laura Trott to Bradley Wiggins ... they have all done it clean. It has been proven they have."
Shane Sutton resigned as British Cycling's technical director in April over allegations of sexism.
Under Sutton, Britain topped the cycling medal standings at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing after winning 14 medals. Britain then won 12 medals in cycling at the London Olympics in 2012.
Wiggins became the first British rider to win the Tour de France in 2012 as part of Team Sky.
There has been scrutiny of Britain's eight-time Olympic medalist's medical treatment since his confidential medical information in September was in one of the leaks resulting from a cyberattack on the World Anti-Doping Agency database.
Wiggins was given three injections of an anti-inflammatory drug between 2011 and 2013 after being granted a Therapeutic Use Exemption, which allows athletes to use otherwise-banned substances because of a verified medical need.
Wiggins has defended his need for a TUE, saying he wasn't attempting to gain an advantage.
He took the anti-inflammatory drug before and during the 2011 Tour, and also before the 2013 Giro d'Italia. Wiggins' treatment was approved by cycling authorities and there has been no suggestion any rules have been broken over the TUEs.
Wiggins posted on Instagram on Sunday ahead of the hearing: "They Can Never Take My Package!"