Dr Richard Freeman has claimed that Shane Sutton was the source of the story first reported by the Daily Mail in October 2016 that raised questions over the contents of a Jiffy Bag delivered to the former Team Sky doctor at the Criterium du Dauphiné in 2011 containing medicine intended for Sir Bradley Wiggins, the winner of the race.
The Daily Mail article was published six months after Sutton, who was a coach at Team Sky in 2011, had left his position as technical director of the Great Britain Cycling Team over allegations if sexism and bullying.
The Guardian reports that according to witness statements filed as part of his defence before the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in a fitness to practise case brought by the General Medical Council, Freeman says he suspects that the Australian was the anonymous Team Sky source that alerted the Daily Mail to the story.
In his three witness statements, which have been released by his defence team, Freeman says he believes that Sutton thought he was the source of claims that the coach had used British Cycling cash for cosmetic dental treatment, had misused other funds and supplied team bikes to people outside the organisation.
Freeman claimed that in response, Sutton told him that he [Freeman], Wiggins, and Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford, previously performance director at British Cycling, “were all finished.”
“I complained to the board of what I believed was misuse of British Cycling resources by Mr Sutton, including £6,000 for his personal cosmetic dentistry performed by the official British Cycling dentist, funding for a three-year physiotherapy degree for a masseuse and MR scans for staff and their families, amongst others,” said Freeman in one of the statements.
“I now recognise that these attempts at whistleblowing were highly likely to have been reported to Mr Sutton and as a result would have caused further damage to our relationship.
“This occurred to me when later Mr Sutton showed me the email trail from UK Sport to British Cycling re a whistleblowing statement made about himself (which UK Sport treated as a grievance and returned to British Cycling), which he wrongly believed that either myself or [British Cycling head physiotherapist] Phil Burt had sent.
“He confronted both of us together stating he knew it was one of us and that he would seize our laptops and phones to prove it. Both Phil and I were shocked at his outburst and threats made during that intimidating exchange.”
Freeman also said in a statement: “In September 2016 I received several phone calls from him [Sutton], in an agitated state, blaming me for his downfall.
“In the last call he told me he had spoken to a journalist who was going to run a story regarding an illegal injection in the bus at Sestriere in 2011, and that we were all finished.
“He said this related to myself, Sir Dave Brailsford and Sir Bradley Wiggins. I was devastated. I blocked his phone number.
“Shortly after he called me from his partner’s phone,” Freeman continued. “I answered it as she had previously asked for medical advice.
“It was Shane Sutton ranting and threatening, I put the phone down and blocked that number.
“When the Daily Mail story broke in Oct 2016 regarding the race in Sestriere in 2011, it came as no surprise that the allegation was made about me and I assumed that Shane Sutton was the source.”
The hearing, which is taking place in Manchester and is scheduled to run until 26 November, continues today.
The Jiffy Bag episode itself does not form part of the current proceedings before the MPTS, which instead focuses largely on the delivery of Testogel patches ordered by Freeman to the National Cycling Centre.
The doctor has admitted 18 of the 22 charges against him but denies that he ordered the patches “knowing or believing it was to be used by an athlete to improve performance,” instead claiming that Sutton bullied him into obtaining them to treat the coach’s alleged erectile dysfunction – something Sutton vehemently denies.
In late 201q6, following the Daily Mail story, the contents of the Jiffy Bag were a key focus of a a House of Commons select committee investigating doping in sport.
Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford insisted to the committee that the package, taken from Manchester to the Alps by former British Cycling employee Simon Cope, contained the drug Fluimucil, which is not banned, to treat Wiggins asthma.
However, there have been suggestions that it contained another drug, the corticosteroid triamcinolone, which is banned but which Wiggins used under a therapeutic use exemption (TUE) before key races including the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Tour de France.
The existence of the TUEs was revealed by Russian hackers shortly after Wiggins won the fifth Olympic gold medal of his career at Rio in 2016.
Had the drug been administered to him on the evening of the final stage of the 2011 Dauphiné, as has been speculated, that may have constituted an anti-doping rule violation under the World Anti-Doping Code.
Wiggins has vehemently denied taking the drug to enhance his performance, and a UK Anti-doping probe into allegations of wrongdoing at British Cycling and Team Sky, which considered that episode among other issues, was closed for lack of evidence.
However, the report from the House of Commons Select Committee for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport delivered a damning assessment, casting doubt on Brailsford’s version of events. It said:
From the evidence that has been received by the Committee regarding the use of triamcinolone at Team Sky during the period under investigation, and particularly in 2012, we believe that this powerful corticosteroid was being used to prepare Bradley Wiggins, and possibly other riders supporting him, for the Tour de France. The purpose of this was not to treat medical need, but to improve his power to weight ratio ahead of the race. The application for the TUE for the triamcinolone for Bradley Wiggins, ahead of the 2012 Tour de France, also meant that he benefited from the performance enhancing properties of this drug during the race. This does not constitute a violation of the WADA code, but it does cross the ethical line that David Brailsford says he himself drew for Team Sky. In this case, and contrary to the testimony of David Brailsford in front of the Committee, we believe that drugs were being used by Team Sky, within the WADA rules, to enhance the performance of riders, and not just to treat medical need.
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.