Olympian’s father raised concerns about potential doping, Freeman tribunal hears 

Tony Cooke, father of Nicole Cooke, felt his concerns would not be acted on 

(Image credit: Getty Images)

An Olympian’s father raised concerns about potential doping in 2013, the Freeman tribunal has heard. 

Tony Cooke, the father of Olympic gold medalist Nicole Cooke, told the medical hearing that he went to UK Anti-Doping in 2013 with concerns about British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton, The Guardian (opens in new tab) reports. 

Giving evidence at Dr Richard Freeman’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service hearing, Cooke said he had a two-hour meeting with UKAD in which he raised concerns about Sutton, but that he felt his disclosures would not be acted on. 

Freeman’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal hearing, being held in Manchester, centres around allegations Freeman ordered 30 testosterone sachets, which were delivered to British Cycling headquarters in Manchester in 2011, and then lied to cover up the order. 

He has admitted 18 of the 22 charges against him, but denies the banned substance was ordered for an athlete to dope, instead claiming he was “bullied” into ordering the testosterone by Shane Sutton to treat Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. Sutton denies this.

Sutton has also denied using performance enhancing drugs during his career. 

Cooke said: “I was concerned that it wouldn’t be followed up. I was surprised when the officers for UKAD told me they could not give me a copy of the evidence I had provided. I felt that was somehow not following natural justice.”

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Simon Jackson QC, counsel for the General Medical Council, asked Cooke: “You gave a number of disclosures.” 

Cooked replied “yes.”

“A number of concerns in relation to Sutton?”


 Jackson also read part of an email Cooke had sent to the UKAD chief executive Andy Parkinson.

In the email Cooke said that both he and Nicole believed Sutton “to be a character we could never trust” but also added that he had never seen Sutton use performance enhancing drugs, nor did he ever suggest to Nicole that she should. 

Cooke also told the tribunal that Sutton had found an empty phial of EPO in a car at the Five Valleys Road race in Wales, while Sutton was the Welsh national coach.

The account was based on the testimony of an unnamed driver who told Cooke about the incident and Cooke did not specify which year it allegedly took place.  

Jackson said: “Your informant said Mr Sutton was very angry about this being left in the car in which he was travelling. He thought it had been left there deliberately by a rider.

Cooke replied: “That’s correct. My own interpretation of it at the time was one of [Sutton’s] innocence.” 

Cooke added that Sutton was able to recognise the product as EPO, in the account he was given of the alleged incident.

The tribunal continues.    

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Alex Ballinger

Alex Ballinger is editor of BikeBiz magazine, the leading publication for the UK cycle industry, and is the former digital news editor for CyclingWeekly.com. After gaining experience in local newsrooms, national newspapers and in digital journalism, Alex found his calling in cycling, first as a reporter, then as news editor responsible for Cycling Weekly's online news output, and now as the editor of BikeBiz. Since pro cycling first captured his heart during the 2010 Tour de France (specifically the Contador-Schleck battle) Alex covered three Tours de France, multiple editions of the Tour of Britain, and the World Championships, while both writing and video presenting for Cycling Weekly. He also specialises in fitness writing, often throwing himself into the deep end to help readers improve their own power numbers.  Away from the desk, Alex can be found racing time trials, riding BMX and mountain bikes, or exploring off-road on his gravel bike. He’s also an avid gamer, and can usually be found buried in an eclectic selection of books.