Cooke, 33, who won the road race at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, also branded cycling sexist and launched a fierce attack on measures in place to combat doping, which she described as “the wrong people fighting the wrong war, in the wrong way, with the wrong tools”.
Painting a damning picture of how “a sport run by men for men” is governed, Cooke was the latest prominent figure to appear before Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, which is investigating doping in sport.
But Cooke said the evidence given by Team Sky chief Dave Brailsford and British Cycling’s former technical director Shane Sutton did not “ring true”.
The sport has been rocked by revelations that a mysterious Jiffy bag containing medication was transported to France by British Cycling women’s team manager Simon Cope for Wiggins and Team Sky at the 2011 Criterium race.
It has also been revealed that Wiggins, the 2012 Tour de France champion and Britain’s most decorated Olympian, who suffers from asthma, applied for three TUEs – doctor’s notes that let athletes take substances that would otherwise be banned – for the substance triamcinolone acetonide on the eve of the 2011 and 2012 Tours de France and the 2013 Giro d’Italia.
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Tour de France winner Bradley Wiggins has announced his retirement from cycling
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Sir Bradley Wiggins has announced his retirement from cycling
Bradley Wiggins apparently sent three doctors notes to allow him to use certain substances
Nicole Cooke has taken a swipe at Bradley Wiggins
Taking TUEs just before major events, it raises questions for me
“Taking TUEs just before major events, it raises questions for me,” said Cooke. “It makes me sceptical of what they have done.
“I find the stance of being the cleanest team, yet Dave Brailsford not being able to say what a rider took, definitely makes it hard to back up that claim.”
Cooke explained she used the same substance to treat a serious knee injury in 2003 and 2007, when the only alternative was surgery, and did not race until “long after the performance-enhancing effects had worn off”.
She claimed Wiggins used the “same steroid before his main goals of the season”.
If there was any doubt about the point Cooke was making, she spelled it out in the 6,000-word written testimony she provided to the committee.
Dave Brailsford's evidence has been questioned
In a section on her own experiences of trying to race clean in a dirty era, Cooke, who also won the world road race crown in 2008, noted the large number of riders at the biggest races with TUEs.
She wrote that having such an exemption “was a very convenient way to mask a doping programme”.
Cooke supplied written evidence followed by an hour’s testimony via video link from Paris. She also hit out at what she said was sexism at the heart of British Cycling, pointing out that Cope, whose salary as women’s coach came from the public purse, should have been focusing on his own job rather than delivering the package to Wiggins.
“Cope was doing what he was told to do,” she said. “Shane Sutton states he approved Cope’s trip with the jiffy bag.
Nobody in the organisation anywhere would have asked the question, ‘Hasn’t Cope got another job to do?’” Cooke frequently stressed there was a lack of governance and accountability at the heart of British Cycling and UK Sport. She also bemoaned the sexism that existed.
“The facts are they did nothing for the women.
Whilst a deluxe programme ran out for the men’s London 2012 bid, Emma Pooley and myself self-funded our flights to, and accommodation in, Australia,” she said.
Asked if sexism was culturally embedded in British Cycling, she replied: “Yes.”
British Cycling insist they are working to redress the inequality issues raised by Cooke.
“While there is still a way to go, British Cycling are absolutely committed to resolving the historic gender imbalance in our sport,” they said in a statement.
“There is always more that can be done and we strive to make continual improvements to ensure that cycling is reaching out to women and girls of all ages and abilities.”
UK Sport have commissioned an independent review to investigate some of Cooke’s claims, while UK Anti-Doping reiterated they will not disclose any information in relation to their investigations.