The doctor at the centre of a testosterone delivery to British Cycling and Team Sky headquarters has admitted telling a ‘lot of lies’ — and that he ordered the banned substance.
On an explosive first day of the independent medical tribunal, the three-person panel was told Sky’s then team doctor Richard Freeman now accepts he sent for 30 sachets of Testogel in 2011 on behalf of team chief Shane Sutton, who guided Sir Bradley Wiggins to the following year’s Tour de France title.
Over a staggering few hours that sent shockwaves through the sport, it emerged that Freeman has also admitted to 19 of 22 damning, as yet unpublished allegations but will continue to deny he ordered the testosterone for an athlete.
Left: Ex-British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman is pictured during his time with Team Sky; Right: Freeman helps Sir Bradley Wiggins after a crash in 2011
Sportsmail were first to report that the former Team Sky and British Cycling head doctor, who was still in post for the golden Olympic summers of London and Rio, had placed the order from Fit4Sport Ltd in Oldham, something he previously denied.
But in stunning early legal arguments, Freeman’s representative, Mary O’Rourke QC, accepted that her client had told lies. Now, she said, he had told the truth in a witness statement which was only submitted last month.
O’Rourke also disclosed that Freeman could previously ‘not bring himself to tell the truth, even to his lawyers’.
Quoting Freeman, who was sitting alongside her at the Manchester hearing, she added: ‘I am here now… this is the truth.’
The use of testosterone by athletes is banned under World Anti-Doping Agency rules. For the General Medical Council (GMC), Simon Jackson QC said: ‘Your motive was to obtain testosterone to give to an athlete to improve an athlete’s performance.’
Miss O’Rourke said the only GMC witness she wants to cross-examine is former Team Sky coach Sutton, who she sensationally revealed is the man Freeman claims requested the Testogel.
The GMC will call a hormone expert to give evidence and are expected to argue that Sutton had no medical need for the substance.
Freeman is accused of ordering 30 sachets of the banned substance Testogel to the Manchester Velodrome (pictured) in May 2011 – something he has denied until now
In a witness statement, Sutton says he had no knowledge of the delivery.
The tribunal — postponed from February, when Freeman failed to appear citing ‘ill health’ — is to determine whether the doctor is fit to practise.
The outcome could spark the biggest crisis yet for British Cycling and Team Sky, as it has the potential to destroy the credibility of both.
An investigation by UK Anti-Doping may well follow.
Tellingly, Team Ineos, formerly Team Sky, sent a media officer to monitor the hearing, and British Cycling sent a media officer and their head of legal.
The number of people in the room grew significantly in the afternoon after the morning’s bombshell developments had been published online.
Former Team Sky coach Shane Sutton (left), who was also personal coach to Sir Bradley Wiggins (right), will be called as a witness in the hearing
Freeman became a controversial figure in cycling when it emerged he had given Wiggins corticosteroid triamcinolone before the 2012 Tour de France, thanks to a therapeutic use exemption.
Freeman was then at the centre of the Jiffy bag scandal, revealed by Sportsmail in 2016, concerning the delivery of a mystery package to Wiggins’ team at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine road race in France. Freeman has since resigned from his roles at Team Sky and British Cycling.
An investigation by UKAD was inconclusive because they could not establish what was in the Jiffy bag. There was no record of the contents and all parties denied any wrongdoing.
Dressed in a navy suit, white shirt and maroon tie, Freeman spoke only to confirm his name and his GMC registration number.
In an extraordinary move, the Manchester panel agreed to a suggestion from O’Rourke that her client, described as ‘vulnerable’, should be screened from the media while giving evidence.
It was also agreed that he would be screened from Australian Sutton — who quit as technical director of British Cycling following accusations of discrimination made against him by former track cyclist Jess Varnish — if he arrives to give evidence.
Sutton was due to appear on November 15 but has now been asked to attend next week.
‘Dr Freeman does not want to see him,’ O’Rourke said. When Freeman does give evidence, it was agreed the sessions would be limited to three hours and that he would receive regular breaks.
Much of Tuesday morning’s legal arguments concerned an attempt by the GMC to change the wording of a disputed allegation which states that Freeman’s ‘motive for ordering the testosterone was to administer (it) to an athlete to improve their athletic performance’.
The GMC has requested a change to the charge, inserting the words ‘knowing’ and ‘believing’ the order was made to enhance the performance of an athlete.
O’Rourke, who argued that accepting the amendment would remove the burden of proof from the GMC, said: ‘You heard me talk about motive. How were they going to prove it? How do they know what was in Dr Freeman’s mind? What they have done is relieved themselves of that burden, which has always been their case.’
Jackson, the GMC’s QC, also suggested that Sutton’s medical records could be used as evidence.
‘Dr Freeman’s alleged assertion that the 30 sachets he allegedly ordered were intended for a non-riding patient is not supported by the non-rider patient’s medical records and is explicitly contradicted by their witness statement,’ he said.
The tribunal is due to run to December 20, although Freeman’s admissions may well bring it to an earlier conclusion.
HOW SPORTSMAIL LED THE WAY…
Sportsmail first revealed how Team Sky and British Cycling were facing the biggest crisis in their history in March 2018, after it emerged that investigators may have found evidence that an order for a banned substance was made from the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
Doctor Richard Freeman later admitted that there was not a ‘written medicines management policy or stock-taking system’ at either Team Sky or British Cycling in 2011.