Former British Cycling Doctor Denies Taking 'Unacceptable Risks' With Riders

Ian Leonard

November 18, 2020

MANCHESTER—A former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor has denied ever giving a rider testosterone to help improve their performance.

Dr Richard Freeman also denied being asked to dope a rider or taking "unacceptable risks" with those in his care.

He appeared at a fitness to practise hearing at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) where he's accused of ordering banned testosterone to the national velodrome in May 2011 "knowing or believing" it was intended to boost an unknown athlete's performance.

Testosterone 

Dr Freeman admits placing the order, consisting of 30 Testogel sachets, but denies it was intended for a rider.

He claims he was "bullied" into making the order by head cycling coach Shane Sutton, whom he found "frightening and intimidating", to help treat Mr Sutton's erectile dysfunction.

But Mr Sutton has denied this and claims Dr Freeman is lying.

Re-examining Dr Freeman's evidence, Mary O'Rourke, his QC, asked him why he'd ordered the sachets for Mr Sutton.

He said that "he'd always accepted he was a doctor first, and a doctor working in sport second". 

Ms O'Rourke then asked him: "Would you order exogenous testosterone for riders if they were low in a test or give it to them?"

Dr Freeman replied: "I would never ever give a rider testosterone."

'JIffygate'

Ms O'Rourke also discussed a Daily Mail article in October 2016 that raised questions over the contents of a jiffy bag delivered to Dr Freeman at the Criterium du Dauphiné in France in 2011 containing medicine intended for Sir Bradley Wiggins, who won the race.

The incident, which became known as 'JIffygate', led to an investigation by the UK Anti-Doping Agency (UKAD).

Dr Freeman believes Mr Sutton was the source for the article.

It's been claimed by Simon Jackson QC, representing the GMC, that Dr Freeman had had "motive" for saying the Testogel was for Mr Sutton.

Ms O'Rourke said the suggestion was he'd "named and shamed" Mr Sutton following the UKAD investigation "in order to give him payback for 'Jiffygate.'"

But Dr Freeman denied this.

Ms O'Rourke also asked Dr Freeman to respond to claims by Mr Jackson that he was "prepared to take certain risks" with the drugs he gave riders.

Dr Freeman said he worked with elite sports people who pushed their bodies "to the extreme" because "gold medals weren't given away".

"My job is to protect the health of riders, even against themselves," he said.

"But we do have to take a risk/benefit analysis because this is an elite sport."

Risks

Ms O'Rourke asked if he'd taken "unacceptable risks" with riders or ever caused them harm because of actions on his part.

Dr Freeman replied: "I have never taken unacceptable risks with riders and they've never come to any harm because of my care.

"I will stick to that until my last breath."

Dr Freeman told the hearing that he viewed the team as "100% clean" and had always been urged to report any suspicions about doping by Sir Dave Brailsford, former performance director at British Cycling.

All staff had been asked to declare any involvement with doping.

He said he "refuted entirely" claims made by Mr Jackson, and put to him by Ms O'Rourke, that he was a "jobbing GP" who'd been under pressure to achieve good results.

The doctor has admitted 18 of 22 charges against him, which include lying about the order by persuading an employee of the medical supplier Fit4Sport to cover his tracks and lying to the UKAD investigation.

Dr Freeman told the hearing that he'd wanted to apologise for lying to UKAD and he'd only lied about covering his tracks because the female employee "had nothing to do" with the incident and he didn't want her to lose her job.

The four charges he denies all relate to the central charge.

The hearing continues this week.

Ian Leonard is a freelance journalist experienced in covering MPTS hearings.

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