Tribunal told Dr Richard Freeman ordered banned testosterone when ‘dopers’ worked within Team Sky and British Cycling

Dr Richard Freeman - PA
Dr Richard Freeman – PA

Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor, ordered banned testosterone to the national velodrome in 2011 at a time when “sleepers” and “dopers” worked within the organisations, a tribunal heard on Monday.

Freeman is accused by the General Medical Council of ordering a batch of Testogel sachets in 2011 with the intention to dope an unnamed rider.

The doctor, who now works as a GP in Lancashire, accepts ordering the package and then lying to cover his tracks. But he claims he was bullied into doing so by former head coach Shane Sutton to treat the Australian’s erectile dysfunction, a claim Sutton strenuously denies.

The GMC finished its closing submissions on Monday by submitting that “the only reasonable conclusion” the panel could draw from the evidence it had heard over the course of the hearing, which has dragged on for nearly two years now, was that the testosterone was not ordered for clinical purposes but “used to dope a rider”.

Simon Jackson QC told the tribunal that Freeman had spun a “web of deceit” after being caught out, digging an ever deeper hole and eventually, in 2017, deciding to pin his mistake on the “convenient suspect” which was Sutton. The Australian had by then left British Cycling under a cloud following accusations of bullying and sexism.

Jackson said the suggestion that Sutton had bullied Freeman was not supported by evidence. And he added there was “no proof” that Freeman destroyed the Testogel sachets at home, as he claimed during the hearing. On the other hand, Jackson said, there was plenty of proof of Freeman’s interest in the testosterone levels of his riders at that time. And he added that Freeman was a “risk-taker” who “looked at what the riders wanted and didn’t focus on what the [Wada] Code prevented.”

“Dr Freeman saw himself in every sense in the riders’ camp,” Jackson told the tribunal. “He stood against what Dr CC [a former Team Sky doctor who left the team in 2010] stood for, which was independent medical assessment.”

Jackson added that evidence given to the tribunal last autumn by Tony Cooke, the father of former Olympic champion Nicole Cooke, had indirectly highlighted serious concerns about some of Team Sky’s staff in that era. Geert Leinders was one of a number of doctors brought in to the team at that time. The Belgian was subsequently banned for life for doping violations carried out at his previous team Rabobank.

“Cooke’s evidence was led by the defence in the hope of being able to pull down Shane Sutton,” Jackson said. “But in a sense evidentially leaving the back door open to Tony Cooke giving evidence that he had been in touch with all manner of people to raise his anxieties regarding proven dopers, which I underline again Team Sky and British Cycling were not aware of…

“But there were sleepers, there were dopers in the past who were within these organisations when Dr Freeman was acquiring the Testogel. They had doped before. And so these aren’t bold allegations in the sense they are unsubstantiated. “The GMC has been able to pull all these strands together. The only reasonable conclusion is that they [the Testogel sachets] weren’t clinically indicated but they were used to dope a rider.”

Mary O’Rourke QC said she was alarmed by what she described as new evidence put forward by Jackson.

“There are things that Mr Jackson has said this morning, and at 2.30pm this afternoon, that we have never heard before,” O’Rourke said. “He’s put a completely different case. I perceive a complete change in the GMC’s case.”

O’Rourke said she might now need to review her closing submissions, which she will begin to give at 10:30am on Tuesday morning. The tribunal panel is due to hand down a facts decision in writing on March 2. Freeman is not attending closing submissions as he is helping to deliver the Covid vaccine in his local area.

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