The Richard Freeman medical tribunal has heard that the doctor’s relationship with former British Cycling technical director Shane Sutton deteriorated markedly in the wake of a “monumental falling out” over the cost of a flight following a family bereavement in 2015.
Freeman has admitted ordering a delivery of the banned substance testosterone to the National Cycling Centre in 2011 and subsequently trying to cover it up.
However, he denies that the substance was intended for an athlete and his defence hinges on a claim that Sutton ‘bullied’ him into ordering it to treat his erectile dysfunction.
In a tense appearance at the tribunal earlier in the week, Sutton denied the testosterone was for him and then stormed out when Freeman's lawyer accused him of being a doper and serial liar.
Appearing yesterday, former British Cycling and Team Sky head of medicine Steve Peters said that using Testogel patches would be a “mad” way to try and gain a performance enhancing benefit.
Peters said Testogel would be picked up very quickly in anti-doping testing and added that if someone were to try and cheat, it didn’t make sense that they would have gone through British Cycling’s supplier where there would be a paper trail.
Peters did however express doubt about Freeman’s defence that he had lied about the 2011 testosterone delivery to protect Shane Sutton’s privacy, arguing that Sutton was “a very open man.”
“I assumed maybe Freeman put Shane’s name for it and maybe used it for himself,” he suggested.
Appearing today, former British Cycling physiotherapist Phil Burt echoed Peters’ view that were Freeman doping a favoured rider he wouldn’t have arranged for the Testogel to be delivered to the National Cycling Centre.
He explained that that he, Freeman and Peters “would open each other’s packages” if they thought the addressee wasn’t in the building.
The Press Association reports that Burt was also questioned about whether or not Sutton had bullied Freeman.
Burt said that Sutton and Freeman had a “monumental falling-out” in early 2015 over a flight back from the Track World Cup in Cali after Freeman suffered a family bereavement.
“He [Freeman] arranged a flight,” said Burt. “Richard thought it was reasonable that he would be recompensed, Shane said no. It became one of those things that they just couldn’t let go.”
Burt said that from then on, Sutton was ‘on Freeman’s case’.
"There were verbal confrontations, passing remarks, constant attrition.”
Recalling one example, he said: “Richard was in the corridor and Shane Sutton said, ’the doc looks like he’s losing weight – I’ve got him where I want him’.”
Asked whether he had seen Sutton bullying Freeman before the 2015 falling-out, Burt said: “I didn’t see it before that. That doesn’t mean it didn’t go on, I just didn’t witness it.”
In 2016 British Cycling cleared Shane Sutton on eight of nine charges of misconduct stemming from allegations of bullying made by Jess Varnish.
Freeman claims Sutton asked him to make up a back problem to support his case to drop Varnish from the team – a request he says he refused.
Burt said that Sutton later accused both him and Freeman of being whistleblowers in the case.
Burt admitted to having “difficult conversations, some that were not pleasant,” with Sutton, including “one veiled threat,” but stopped short of branding it bullying.
The hearing continues on Wednesday.