Dr Richard Freeman, the doctor who received the infamous Jiffy bag at the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, has resigned from British Cycling because of ill health. The Guardian reports that he has left without a financial settlement.
Records released by computer hackers after last summer’s Rio Olympics showed that Sir Bradley Wiggins took the controversial drug triamcinolone to treat hay fever and grass and pollen allergies before the Tour de France in 2011 and 2012, and before the Giro d’Italia in 2013.
It was subsequently claimed that some of Team Sky’s medical staff had taken steps including changing computer passwords to prevent Freeman from applying for a fourth therapeutic use exemption (TUE) for triamcinolone prior to the 2013 Tour of Britain.
UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) is also investigating the contents of a Jiffy bag delivered to Freeman for Wiggins in 2011. Freeman has claimed that it contained the decongestant Fluimucil, but Ukad has not been able to verify that because of a lack of medical records.
In February, Freeman missed a planned appearance before a House of Commons Select Committee due to ill health, but submitted written evidence stating that neither Team Sky nor British Cycling kept written records relating to their stock of medicines at the time of the Jiffy bag incident.
British Cycling subsequently admitted “serious failings” in medical record-keeping. As well as being due to speak to UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) as part of its investigation, Freeman was also the subject of internal disciplinary proceedings on the matter.
In a statement about his resignation, British Cycling chief executive Julie Harrington said: “We were investigating him on employment matters and Ukad were investigating him on doping matters. After some months we were ready to continue with disciplinary action. Dr Freeman really wasn’t well enough to commence that and so we’ve allowed him to resign.
“We continue to support Ukad and when Dr Freeman is better I would hope he would continue to support Ukad with any ongoing investigation. It is an area that for the sake of our current riders, membership and reputation of our sport, that I would have hoped to have brought to a tidier end, but we also have a duty of care to him as an employee.”
Harrington – who was appointed in March after working as group operations director at the Football Association – lamented the fact that British riders suspected of doping in the future could have Freeman’s failure to keep proper records held against them.
“Am I happy records were being kept as good as they could be in order to protect the reputations of our riders, as well as proving no wrongdoing? No I’m not. Do I worry something could come up from the past? As chief exec of cycling’s national governing body, of course I do.
“I want our employees to sit around their respective dinner tables in the evening proud of where they work and not have anything hanging over them. What is within my sphere of influence is making sure we’re not just fit for purpose but setting a benchmark for what medical governance should look like.
“In February Jonathan Browning took over as chairman and had already commissioned a report on our medical governance. Change starts at the top so you’ve got to have the right leadership but you’ve also got to have the right processes and systems in place to ensure there’s no oversight, and an evidence trail so if something goes wrong you can find out where it’s failing. You’ve got to have the ability to defend your clean riders.”
In April, British Cycling announced an independent review into the operational practices of its medical and physiotherapy teams after the criticism from the House of Commons Select Committee and Ukad.
Dr Nigel Jones has since been appointed head of medical services, with responsibility for riders’ medical care, as well as medicines management and record keeping.