Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor at the centre of a lengthy storm concerning alleged doping on both teams, is facing a four year ban from sport after declining the opportunity to defend himself against charges related to two breaches of anti-doping rules.
Freeman lost a High Court appeal in January against a tribunal’s decision to strike him from the medical register in 2021, when it was ruled that his ability to practise medicine had been impaired by misconduct, having been found to have ordered banned testosterone in 2011 “knowing or believing” it was to help dope an unnamed professional cyclist.
Following the 2021 tribunal, UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) charged the former Team Sky doctor with two anti-doping violations, namely possession of prohibited substances and tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control.
That case was paused as Freeman appealed his ban, but following the High Court’s ruling he was due to attend a National Anti-Doping Panel hearing last month.
However, the Times reports that Freeman had informed UKAD that he would not be representing himself at the hearing.
His decision now leaves the panel free to press ahead with a ruling that could cast a serious shadow over the success of both British Cycling and Team Sky in the 2010s.
The 63-year-old, who joined British Cycling in 2009, was the medical chief for the national team at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics, and helped Bradley Wiggins secure a highly controversial medical exemption for the powerful corticosteroid Triamcinolone before his winning ride at the 2012 Tour de France.
During his lengthy medical tribunal, Freeman admitted ordering 30 packets of Testogel to the Manchester Velodrome in 2011 and subsequently lying about the order – which he initially claimed he was bullied into by Sky coach Shane Sutton – to cover his tracks, though he vehemently denied being a “doping doctor”.
Under cross-examination, he also revealed details – such as pouring the Testogel sachets down the sink at his home – which he had not admitted either in an interview with UKAD in 2017 or in statements submitted to the medical tribunal.
The tribunal concluded in March 2021 that “it was clear” that the inference could properly be drawn that “when Dr Freeman placed the order and obtained the Testogel, he knew or believed it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance”.
Of course, despite Freeman’s absence, UKAD will still need to prove its case to the anti-doping panel, which may prove difficult thanks to the lack of records kept by the doctor during his time at British Cycling and Sky – not helped by the destruction of laptops from that period – an issue which scuppered UKAD’s inquiry in 2017 into possible wrongdoing at both teams.
That particular probe was related to the contents of a package delivered to Freeman on the final day of the 2011 Critérium du Dauphiné, containing medicine for race winner Wiggins.
In 2016, Team Sky principal Sir Dave Brailsford told a parliamentary enquiry that the package, taken to France from Manchester by a British Cycling employee, contained the decongestant fluimucil, to treat Wiggins’ hay fever.
However, British Cycling was unable to provide evidence of records to back that up, and with UKAD unable to determine exactly what was in the package, the investigation was closed.
Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.