Former Team Sky and British Cycling coach Shane Sutton this afternoon stormed out of the medical tribunal concerning Dr Richard Freeman, who worked with him at both organisations, following a fractious and often fiery session.
Even before Sutton was subjected to cross-examination today by Freeman’s lawyer, Mary O’Rourke QC, it was clearly going to be confrontational as she branded him “a habitual and serial liar” and “a doper, with a doping history.”
Sutton vehemently denied having bullied Freeman into ordering 30 sachets of Testogel which were delivered to the National Cycling Centre in Manchester, with the doctor claiming they were to treat the Australian’s erectile dysfunction.
The Guardian’s Sean Ingle, who was at today’s hearing, quoted Sutton as saying: “I have never ordered any Testogel, I swear on my three-year-old daughter’s life.”
The 62-year-old Australian, addressing O’Rourke, said: “You are telling the press I can’t get a hard on – my wife wants to testify that you are a bloody liar.”
A screen separated him from Freeman, put in place to minimise the potential for the doctor, who faces being struck off, from feeling intimidated by Sutton, who described him as a “spineless individual.”
He added: “Richard, take the screen down and look me in the eye. There’s a word spineless that comes into play.”
After asking, “Am I the one who is on trial here?” – in response, O’Rourke said she believed the two witness statements he had given were false – Sutton announced he was leaving the tribunal, saying: “I have spent two days here, my children have taken the bullying to the gutter press.
“She is accusing me of all kinds of things so I am leaving the hearing now. I don’t need to be dragged into this shit fight.”
As he left, Sutton said: “The head of BC wanted him [Freeman] out, he turned up to work several times drunk, he was like a Scarlet Pimpernel. I had two critical cases when I couldn’t get hold of him.”
This morning lawyers for Sutton, who had been due to appear yesterday before the hearing was adjourned for 24 hours due to legal arguments, argued that he should be allowed to give evidence later in the week by videolink from Spain, citing a family emergency, but O’Rourke insisted she wanted to question him in person.
Responding to her allegations of doping, which he described as defamatory, he said: “My career spanned 100 tests and every one was negative.
“You have called me a serial liar but you don’t even know me. I just think you are totally out of order. An apology would be nice given you don’t even know me.”
He continued: “I am prepared to take a lie detector test. Who is lying? The guy [Freeman} who isn’t prepared to look his friend in the eye. This is a guy who came to hospital when I had bleeding on the brain when he had no reason to. To me he is a bloody good doctor and a friend.”
Freeman has accepted 18 of the 22 charges laid against him in the case, which has been brought by the General Medical Council and is being heard at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester.
While he has admitted ordering the Testogel in 2011, he denies that it was intended for use by an athlete, and his defence is that it was intended for Sutton.
The hearing continues.
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.