The former British Cycling employee who carried a mystery package to France at the end of the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné race did not ask what was in it as he trusted his employers and wanted to keep his job, he has told a committee of MPs.
Simon Cope, who had been a coach at British Cycling, said that in retrospect he should have asked what was in the jiffy bag he delivered to the then-Team Sky doctor at the race won by Bradley Wiggins.
But under intense questioning from MPs on the culture, media and sport committee, which is examining the events as part of an investigation into possible doping in sport, Cope said it had not occurred to him to ask what was in the bag.
“Why would I ask? I didn’t think anything was untoward,” he told them. “It’s a national governing body – why would I question the integrity of our governing body?”
The committee also heard from the chief executive of UK Anti-Doping (Ukad), Nicole Sapstead, who said her organisation’s inquiries had been told the package contained Fluimucil, a non-proscribed decongestant.
However, Sapstead said only one person claimed to know this, and Dr Richard Freeman, the Sky doctor to whom Cope handed the package, did not have any documentation to show what bag was contained.
The hearing had been also due to hear on Wednesday from Freeman, who still works for British Cycling, but he pulled out of his planned evidence, saying he was too ill to attend.
Cope told the MPs he had been full-time coach for the British Cycling women’s academy until the end of 2010, but his role had shrunk and he ended up acting as a part-time “gap filler”.
He described being asked by Shane Sutton, who was technical director for British Cycling, to take a package from the organisation’s Manchester office on a flight to Geneva, after which he was to drive to the end point of the Dauphiné race.
Cope – who said he had been due to travel to France anyway to collect Sutton and some team bikes – said it was “not at all” unusual to run such errands.
“It is normal in our world, yes,” he said. “If you understand the sport we’re in, people do unusual things like flying detergent to a race because one rider is allergic.”
Asked if he was “the most over-qualified delivery boy in history”, Cope said he had been trying to secure a permanent job.
“I could well be,” he said. “But as I said earlier, I had a role in 2010 that was a full-time role, and I moved into a role which I could see, a few months down the line – which did happen – getting made redundant, as it wasn’t a full time job. So I was doing everything possible to keep people happy, to try and keep my job.”
He added: “I probably should have asked what was in the package. But as I said, at the time, I didn’t think it was untoward.”
Cope, who is now sporting director of Wiggins’ own professional road cycling team, said that because he had been asked to deliver the jiffy bag to Freeman, he assumed it was “obviously something medical” but did not think at any time it could involve doping.
Asked why he would take a jiffy bag on a plane when he did not know what was inside, Cope replied: “If a guy on the street gave me a package, I think I’d be suspicious, but as I’ve said, this is our national governing body. I had no reason to be suspicious at all.”
He added: “I don’t know what was in it. I was asked to take it by my employers. I was in a position where my role was not full time, so I was trying to secure a job. Any little job asked to do, I’d do. That was it.”
Sapstead told the MPs that Ukad had started an investigation into the package in September and had interviewed 34 people. It had established that Sutton asked Cope to deliver a package to Freeman.
The one account as to the contents of the bag said it had contained Fluimucil, which Sapstead was “quite common” in endurance sport. However, she said, Phil Burt, the British Cycling physiotherapist who put together the package said he had “no recollection whatsoever” of what was in it.
Ukad had “not been able to confirm or refute the one account we have been given” that Fluimucil was inside, she added.
Freeman appeared to have no records connected to the package, Sapstead added.