Former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman has been found guilty of ordering banned testosterone “knowing or believing” it would be administered to an unnamed rider for performance enhancement.
Chair of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, Neil Dalton, on Friday announced the verdict which will open up a slew of questions around British Cycling and Team Sky. Dr Freeman has already admitted 18 of the 22 charges brought against him by the tribunal, including purchasing the banned Testogel and lying to the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD), in a case that has dragged on for two years since beginning in February 2019.
Of the four contested charges relating to the delivery of the banned testosterone to British Cycling and Team Sky Manchester HQ in June 2011, Freeman was cleared of one – that he ordered Testogel when he “knew it was not clinically indicated for the non-athlete member of staff”.
Announcing the verdict in Manchester, Dalton said: “The tribunal had found that you, Dr Freeman, placed the order and obtained the Testogel, knowing or believing it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance. The motive for your action was to conceal your conduct.”
Freeman said during the tribunal that he was bullied into ordering Testogel by Shane Sutton, the former performance director of British Cycling and Team Sky, in order to treat the latter’s erectile dysfunction. Shane Sutton denied these claims and the GMC also raised doubts about whether Sutton had sent bullying texts messages as Freeman had failed to provide any evidence supporting that claim.
In the MPTS report, the tribunal states that it believes Sutton to have been a credible witness, and gave its reasoning as to why it didn’t believe Freeman’s claims about why he ordered the banned drug.
“The Tribunal was aware, of course, that poor record-keeping by Dr Freeman had been admitted by him elsewhere in the Allegation,” the report reads.
“However, it stretched credulity that a high-profile, experienced sports doctor would order a potential banned substance under the WADA code; yet, despite the significance of this, fail to make a record of the intended patient, the circumstances, and the proposed off-label use.
“Even if the order had been an impulsive act (as he claims), there would have been an opportunity between order and delivery to capture the circumstances in writing.”
On Saturday (February 6), Freeman’s legal representation Mary O’Rourke QC gave her final submissions, saying there was ‘no evidence’ that the doctor used testosterone to dope a rider.
“Unless you have a document or an email saying: ‘I intend to do something,’ or he tells his wife or colleague: ‘I intend to use it to dope Sir Bradley Wiggins,’ or whoever, you haven’t got clear evidence or intent,” O’Rourke said.
“Perhaps the Testogel went out the door, or in the sink. Maybe it did go off to somebody but they haven’t got a scrap of evidence to prove it. They can’t.”
In October 2020, Freeman admitted to losing a third laptop containing rider blood data, after one Team Sky laptop had been stolen in Greece in 2014 while another had been destroyed to prevent “hackers” from gaining access.
The hearing will resume on March 17 where the tribunal will decide if Freeman’s “fitness to practice is impaired”.
Following the verdict, UKAD announced Dr Freeman would be provisionally suspended from all sport as it charged him with two violations, ‘Possession of Prohibited Substances and/or Prohibited Methods and Tampering or Attempted Tampering with any part of Doping Control’.
In a statement, UKAD chief executive, Nicole Sapstead said: “UKAD acknowledges today’s decision of the Medical Practitioners Tribunal in the case of Dr Richard Freeman.
“Following the announcement, UKAD can confirm that Dr Richard Freeman has been charged under the UK Anti-Doping Rules (UK ADR) with two violations – Possession of Prohibited Substances and/or Prohibited Methods and Tampering or Attempted Tampering with any part of Doping Control.
“While the charges are pending, Dr Freeman is subject to a provisional suspension from all sport.
“We do not intend to make any further comment at this time.”