Ten years after Operación Puerto, Jørg Jaksche has a hard time believing much has changed in cycling. A decade on, Jaksche lives in Australia, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in business administration, far away from the European peloton he watches with skepticism in the post-Puerto era. Many say the peloton has changed for the better, but Jaksche says he is not so convinced.
“To be honest, we had the same excuse,” he told in an interview for CyclingTips. “I personally did it, as well as a lot of cyclists that I know from my era. We always said we had the same thing, the same allergy, but it was actually just for performance-enhancing.
“I think a lot of people suddenly had allergies at the Tour. The UCI cannot really do something about it and WADA can’t really do something about it. Well, they could if they want. But I think Sky had a bit of a credibility benefit because they were Sky.”
“It was always the same procedure [to get the drug]. You would apply for a TUE, telling WADA that you had hay fever. Your team doctor would tell them you were having certain problems like [watering] eyes, blah blah blah. You would get 50 mg injections before the Tour. It was an old and traditional way of doping.
“WADA would never really say, ‘why didn’t you apply last year for it?’ That’s important, because at the same time each year you should have the same problem. Plus or minus two weeks, nature should have the same pollen flying. Yet they would never ask that.
“So you would get your cortisone injection in order to be competitive at the Tour or to lose weight or whatever the motive was there. The effect was extreme. Cortisone reduces inflammation in your body, number one. It is also a little bit pushy as it is a hormone. So it causes a certain hormone rush.
“On one hand you are at [race] weight and you are more willing to perform, and then on the other hand it is a strong pain killer and an inflammation killer. So your recovery is shorter and the pain you are going through is less.
“It makes you very skinny. It burns fat. If you do it at the beginning of the Tour, you are going to lose another one to two kilos in the first week. You are going to suffer less. You are going to be less tired as your recuperation is faster because of the anti-inflammatory effects. It is the old school of doping.”
“To be honest, after I’ve built a bit of a view on the whole thing, I was like ‘this is Brailsford and Sky.’ They are not a solution; they are part of the problem. I googled some of Brailsford’s quotes about the MPCC and TUEs. [Note: the MPCC is an anti-doping group of teams which has clear rules against racing with cortisone. Team Sky is not a member, with Brailsford saying in the past they wouldn’t join as they wanted to impose their own stricter regulations].
“I do not know Brailsford, but his words and the facts are not consistent and I question if he could have some slight issues with the truth,” Jaksche continues. “I think he uses this British approach of marginal gains and how pseudo-intelligent they are just to play with the intelligence of the audience a little bit.
“In the past he said that TUEs have a bad reputation because of Armstrong and the abuse of them. For me, what happened with Wiggins shows how Sky is really working. As I said, for me, they are not part of the solution, they are part of the problem. Bunch of hypocrites.”
“In the years before, Wiggins was fourth at the Tour with Vaughters,” he explains. “If he really had such a severe allergy problem at this time of the year, he would have never been able to be able to perform at that level in the years before. That is a logical consequence.
“If your allergies were so bad that you would need injections, then you’d be getting dropped on the first hill with the sprinters [without it]. Probably Cavendish would have dropped him uphill in the years before. There is an error in the logic behind it.
“What happened was that he was racing in teams where they had a no needle policy. Vaughters is part of the MPCC and they have signed an agreement that they don’t do cortisone injections on the team. If someone needs cortisone, he will not race.
“Then he went to Sky and then from one year to another he was suddenly really allergic. Also, by coincidence, the timing of the allergy moved, in the sense that it went from the Tour to the Giro. The timing of this allergy pattern is really awkward.”
“As always, the main problem is the people who are around cyclists. You don’t get cortisone easily in the pharmacy. You can get cortisone cream, but normally they will not give you other forms of cortisone in a pharmacy.
“So who would deliver cortisone and all that stuff? How many doctors are going against their legal obligations of healing people? It is the entourage around the rider. Who provides the cortisone? Which team managers allow their doctors to give cortisone to their riders? The problem is all the way up. This is for me the main issue.
“For me, personally, I don’t trust Brailsford. In my personal opinion, when someone claims that Sky is better than the rest because they train harder and their training is more effective than doping, it already shows me how he thinks. He deliberately makes nonsense of anti-doping in order to justify the exceptional performances of his team. I don’t trust him. I think he is a very clever person and I think he tries to outsmart the audience.
“I have this idea from the past about doping and how cortisone is used, and it is very similar to what Wiggins did. Five or seven days before the Tour, taking a huge injection of cortisone. That is enough for the Tour. I am not saying that he doped but I see high similarities between how it was done ten years ago and actually how he did it in 2011, 2012.”
“I would say it is a very performance improver. It reduces weight, it increases your recovery and it is a very strong painkiller. From my experience, I would say that it is probably a three to five percent performance improvement.
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