LONDON (Reuters) - Former Team Sky rider Josh Edmondson has said that he broke cycling's no-needle policy to inject himself secretly with vitamins.
Edmondson, who rode for Team Sky in 2013 and 2014, told the BBC in an interview it was the pressure to be selected for the 2014 Tour of Spain that led him to break the rules.
The rider said he confessed to Team Sky at the time but there was a cover-up by senior management.
The team doctor at the time, Steve Peters, was quoted by the BBC on Thursday as saying: "It's not a cover-up. Once you use that word you are saying there was an intent behind us to conceal and that was never the case."
Vitamins and a needle were found in Edmondson's room by a team mate but Team Sky said they did not report the incident because Edmondson had denied using them and amid concerns that he was depressed and could be "pushed over the edge".
It is not against International Cycling Union (UCI) rules to take vitamins but in 2011 the world governing body introduced an anti-doping rule prohibiting the use of needles.
Team Sky said on Thursday that they had immediately launched an investigation and, while there was a breach of their own policies, they found no evidence of an anti-doping violation.
"We are satisfied that this incident was handled correctly and we believe that it stands as an example of the robust procedures Team Sky has in place for any concerns to be raised, investigated and properly dealt with," they said in a statement.
Edmondson told the BBC: "In 2014 I was under a lot of pressure, not just from the team but from myself.
"I went to Italy to buy the vitamins that I was going to later inject...
"I bought butterfly clips, the syringes, the carnitine (a supplement), folic acid, 'TAD' (a supplement), damiana compositum, and (vitamin) B12, and I'd just inject that two or three times a week maybe. Especially when I wanted to lose weight, I'd inject the carnitine more often because it was very effective."
Team Sky have come under the microscope in recent months after a UK Anti-Doping investigation was launched into a package ordered by a team doctor and delivered to their former rider Bradley Wiggins at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race.
Team Sky boss Dave Brailsford told British lawmakers that the package contained the legal decongestant Fluimucil, although the lack of a paper trail has called into question Sky's medical record-keeping. Sky denied any doping violations.
Edmondson said he suffered from depression after independently using Tramadol, an opioid sometimes used in the professional peloton to numb pain during races.
He said he stopped injecting himself with vitamins after a team mate caught him and reported him to team management.
Team Sky told the BBC that they took legal advice. The team said they had no obligation to report Edmondson because he denied to them having injected himself when questioned.
Peters said the team made "a judgement call which was difficult". He said the issue was discussed but they were concerned about the "welfare of the individual (Edmondson)".
Team Sky added in their statement: "...the decision not to escalate or make public the incident was taken with the team’s duty of athlete care in mind".
Edmondson said in the BBC interview that he told Team Sky's senior management he had self-injected at the time, but that there was a "cover-up".
"I think that would have meant a bigger admission for them," he said.
"They'd have had to say publicly a kid was injecting. Injecting anything's bad. It's not like they were banned substances but injecting is against the rules - to self-administer anything, I believe."
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Toby Davis)