Former British Cycling Doctor's Tribunal Delayed

Edna Astbury-Ward

February 11, 2019

MANCHESTER - The independent tribunal involving Dr Richard Freeman, the former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor, has been delayed. Legal arguments began to be heard in private last week and are continuing this week.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing was due to begin on Wednesday 6th February, but Dr Freeman's defence team lodged an application for a 48-hour adjournment. No reason for the request was given, and the application was discussed behind closed doors. 

The General Medical Council (GMC) had no objections to the adjournment, according to a statement from the MPTS: "The doctor is not present but is legally represented by Mary O'Rourke QC. His defence indicated that it wished to make a preliminary legal application in private, which was agreed to by the tribunal."  

Mary O'Rourke acted as the barrister for the ex-Chelsea FC doctor Eva Carneiro in her constructive dismissal claim against the Premier League club. The tribunal members for the hearing are Mr Stephen Mooney (legally qualified chairperson), Dr Bridget Langham (medical), Mrs Barbara Larkin (lay). Simon Jackson, QC, is the GMC representative.

Anticipated Delay

Following the decision to adjourn, the Chair said in a statement that there are "other considerations we have to take into account".

The delay to Dr Freeman's tribunal came as no great surprise to the media camped outside the MPTS's premises at St James' Building in Oxford Street last week. Most of the journalists had received a notice issued yesterday by Bethany Culshaw, communication officer of the MPTS: saying: "We anticipate that the tribunal may need some time to read evidence bundles before the hearing can formally open," and that: "All timings are subject to change, but we will let you know if there is any significant update."

Bethany Culshaw stressed this is not a GMC hearing, and MPTS tribunals make independent decisions about a doctor's fitness to practise, while the GMC investigates doctors and brings a case against them to the MPTS.
 

Allegations

The tribunal is scheduled to last 4 weeks, and it looks set to cast a shadow over UK cycling. Among the series of allegations Dr Freeman faces is the claim that he ordered testosterone gel for an athlete to boost their performance.

In pre-hearing information published by the MPTS, it is claimed Dr Freeman's "motive for his actions, in respect of the untrue statements and communications with the medical supplier Fit4Sport Ltd, were to conceal his motive for placing the order". 

Dr Freeman is also alleged to have lied to UK Anti-Doping investigators in February 2017 by stating the testosterone had been ordered for a non-athlete member of staff.

In an interview for the BBC last year, Dr Freeman denied any wrongdoing in respect of the delivery of testosterone to the Manchester Velodrome/National Cycling Centre in Manchester.

Editor's note: This article was updated after publication to include the latest situation on legal arguments.

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