Dr Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor, has claimed in front of a medical tribunal that he destroyed Testogel patches that he had ordered to be delivered to the National Cycling Centre in 2011 the same day they were delivered - but was unable to give any explanation of why he had done so, or why he had waited until today to make the claim.
The General Medical Council, which has laid 22 charges against Freeman that form the basis of the present hearing being held by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, all but four of which he has admitted.
The principal charge that Freeman denies is that he ordered Testogel testosterone patches for delivery to the National Cycling Centre in 2011 “knowing or believing” that they would be used by an athlete, contrary to anti-doping rules.
He has previously insisted that he was bullied into ordering them by former Team Sky and British Cycling coach Shane Sutton, whom he claims suffered from erectile dysfunction – something the Australian has strongly denied.
The Guardian reports that in a cross-examination today, Simon Jackson, acting for the GMC, asked Freeman: “I am going to suggest that you never said that in three witness statements or any previous interview that you destroyed it that night. Why is it that?”
Freeman responded, “I don’t have an answer for that. I took it home that night. This is my regret, which I keep replaying again and again. I regret it. I had no thought of an audit trail.”
It was put to the doctor that there were three ways in which he could have disposed of the 30 testosterone patches – first, to return it to the supplier, secondly to give them to Sutton secretly, and thirdly to supply them to riders racing for the national team or for Team Sky.
“I find that offensive in every respect,” he replied. I believe in the Wada [World Anti-doping Agency] code. I introduced anti-doping to the FA, in European Golf, in football at Bolton Wanderers, to active riders at British Cycling, I have such strong views of sport and drug abuse, I find option three just offensive.”
Jackson pointed out that the GMC’s case was that he had “acquired it for a rider,” to which Freeman said: “I am well aware of that.”
However, Freeman acknowledged that he was not fully informed of the World Anti-doping Code.
“I have to confess I had no knowledge of, and I had not read the small print, on possession of prohibited substances and prohibited methods – that never occurred to me,” he said.
That elicited a stinging response from Jackson, who said: “You talk about this being small print, Dr Freeman. It’s really a headline. It’s article two of the Wada code – anti-doping regulations. It’s not small print is it? It’s the whole premise of what the code’s about.”
Citing rule 2.6.2 of the code, he continued: “That paragraph establishes that if you have Testogel, you are deemed to be in possession of it, unless you have an acceptable justification. It would not include buying a substance or buying it for a friend. You did not have justifiable medical circumstances.”
Freeman said: “I fully accept testosterone is a banned drug for athletes. At the time I was thinking of Mr Sutton as a patient, not as a rider or ex-rider.”
Yesterday, Freeman told the tribunal that he destroyed a laptop after watching a TV programme which showed how hackers could hack computers remotely to extract information.
The laptop was a replacement for one that Freeman previously claimed had been stolen from him while on holiday in Greece in 2014, and which contained medical records relating to British Cycling and Team Sky riders.
In 2017, a UK Anti-Doping investigation into allegations of wrongdoing at both organisations was closed due to insufficient evidence – including the records on that first laptop – being available.
The destruction of the replacement likewise meant that records kept on it could not be accessed by UKAD, nor by the General Medical Council, which has laid 22 charges against Freeman that form the basis of the present hearing, all but four of which he has admitted.
The doctor, who said his lawyers had told him not to destroy the second laptop due to data protection considerations, insisted he believed wrongly that the data on it was backed up.
He said that the episode happened during “a period when I wasn't feeling well.”
Freeman also revealed that his failure to attend a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee hearing into doping in sport – which focused in part on British Cycling and Team Sky – came after a meeting at which former Sky CEO James Murdoch was present.
“It was very tense, pressurised,” he said. “They wanted to know how I would answer certain questions. “I broke down in tears and couldn't go on.”
The doctor said that the meeting was stopped by his lawyer, adding, “I never went back,” instead submitting his answers in writing.
Freeman claims that he failed to follow normal procedures before giving the patches to Sutton, saying, “I didn't examine his testicles, I didn't take his blood pressure, I didn't take a medical assessment. I fully accept it was poor medical practice, I regret that."
The hearing, which reconvened yesterday after being adjourned late last year, is due to last until 26 November and should the charges against Freeman be proved, could result in him being barred from practising medicine.
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.