Actualité du dopage

How a 2014 Chris Froome interview prompted fresh questions for Team Sky over Fluimucil use

06/01/2017 - - William Fotheringham

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Further information has emerged surrounding the medicine Fluimucil, stated by Sir Dave Brailsford to be the substance in the mystery Jiffy bag delivered to Team Sky’s doctor at the time, Richard Freeman, at the final day of the Critérium du Dauphiné in 2011. The medicine is indeed a common mucolytic used to clear the airways but it has also been shown to enhance recovery after intense cycling effort and it has been used by at least one team, and possibly others, in injection form to that end, before the UCI’s needle ban in May 2011.

In a 2014 interview with Paul Kimmage, Chris Froome stated that when riding for the Barloworld team, before his signing for Sky in 2010, he had been given injections of a substance he believed was Fluimucil. This was within the rules at the time.

“On Barloworld they did do injectable… was it Fluimacil [sic]?” Froome told Kimmage. He added: “It was an amino acid or something and the doctor would administer that at certain points. And I did have some Fluimacil … It’s possible once or twice. Before [the doctor] would do it he would show it to me and say, “This is Fluimacil, an amino acid. It will help you to recover.”

Froome, who at Sky has become a triple Tour de France winner, said the first time he was injected “it was definitely in a stage race, about halfway through or two thirds of the way through. The doctor came around to everyone’s room and said: “OK guys, you’ve had three hard days, here are some amino acids to help you recover.’ At first I thought: ‘This is a bit weird,’ but he explained there were no problems with it and that it was completely allowed.”

The former team doctor at Barloworld Massimiliano Mantovani confirmed to the Guardian that the team had used Fluimucil by injection as an antioxidant before the no needle ban came into force, reiterating that it was totally legal. “It is the only antioxidant that has been tested and shown to work. It was used only for recovery, not to enhance performance, it is better by injection as the absorption is more efficient. It’s a very small injection, about 2-3ml. It was totally legal, absolutely legal.”

Fluimucil is one brand name used to market an amino acid derivative named N-Acetylcysteine, also marketed as Mucomyst, which is a powerful antioxidant. It is available in three main forms, as a tablet taken in water used commonly as a cold cure, as a preparation for a nebuliser, when it is breathed as a vapour via a face mask to help the lungs dislodge mucus, and as an intravenous preparation used in particular to treat acute paracetamol overdose. Among its other properties, it appears to restore the body’s levels of the antioxidant glutathione.

Several scientific studies between 1994 and 2006 indicate that when infused it can improve recovery from exercise. One study into cyclists carried out in 2004 concluded: “NAC infusion during prolonged sub maximal exercise … substantially enhanced performance in well-trained individuals,” and a second, in 2006, came to an almost identical conclusion. This might explain why it was being used via injection to enhance recovery at Barloworld, as Froome relates.

In his testimony before the select committee for culture, media and sport on 19 December, Brailsford stated that Dr Freeman had informed him that the substance in the package delivered by the British Cycling coach Simon Cope was Fluimucil, “a decongestant that you put in a nebuliser. I couldn’t see any anti-doping rule violation.” He added: “I have third party information. I can only relate what I was told by Dr Freeman. He told me it was Fluimucil.”

Brailsford was asked whether anything else was in the package, replying: “I hope not.”

Earlier, while giving his evidence to the MPs, Shane Sutton, who was Bradley Wiggins’s coach at the time, stated that Wiggins had a breathing problem of some kind and that the substance in the package – which he did not name – had been “administered” to Wiggins by Dr Freeman, but he did not specify how this had been done.

Asked by the Guardian to specify whether the Fluimucil in the package was administered by inhalation as might have been assumed from his explanation that Fluimucil was used with a nebuliser, or whether it might have been administered to Wiggins by injection – which would have been against the rules due to the “no needle” ban – Brailsford said he could make no comment on account of the continuing inquiry into Team Sky and British Cycling being carried out by UK Anti-Doping. “I’ve told everything I know to Ukad and that process is still ongoing, which I am respecting.”


When Dr Freeman was asked by the Guardian to specify in what form the Fluimucil was delivered to him at the Dauphiné, he replied that Ukad have asked him to refrain from comment until the inquiry is complete.

Wiggins’s spokesman asked for the question to be put to the former cyclist’s lawyers, who are dealing with inquiries relating to the Ukad inquiry, but they did not provide a response despite being contacted four times by email and telephone. The same question was put by text to Phil Burt – the British Cycling physio who made up the package – but no response was forthcoming.

In the interview in the Guardian where he detailed the allergies that led him to use injections of the corticosteroid triamcinolone, Wiggins describes using a variety of substances to treat his various allergies and breathing difficulties, including salbutamol, fluticazone, Clarityn and nasal sprays. He did not mention using Fluimucil.

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