The former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman sensationally changed his evidence on Wednesday to claim he destroyed a package of banned testosterone on the same day it was sent to the Manchester velodrome in 2011.
On another day of stunning revelations at the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, Freeman also admitted to not reading key parts of the World Anti-Doping Agency Code when ordering Testogel which, it was suggested, may have caused him to break Wada’s doping rules.
Freeman, who was a vital part in Bradley Wiggins’s Tour de France victory in 2011 and British Cycling’s medal successes at the London 2012 and Rio 2016 Olympics, admitted to “poor medical practice”. However, he insisted he had been bullied into making mistakes by the British Cycling coach Shane Sutton.
But when cross-examined by Simon Jackson, on behalf of the General Medical Council, he said he had no answer to why he had destroyed the Testogel after being ordered to remove it by British Cycling’s medical director, Steve Peters, or why he had suddenly changed his story.
“I am going to suggest that you never said that in three witness statements or any previous interview that you destroyed it that night,” said Jackson. “Why is it that?”
“I don’t have an answer for that,” Freeman replied. “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.”
Freeman has accepted 18 of the GMC’s 22 charges, including ordering the banned Testogel in 2011 and lying to UK Anti-Doping. However, he denies “knowing or believing it was to be used by an athlete to improve performance” and says he purchased it for Sutton to treat his erectile dysfunction. Sutton vehemently denied those allegations before storming out of the tribunal last year.
On the second day of Freeman’s evidence, it was put to him that he had three options to dispose of the Testogel. The first would have been to send it back to Fit4Sport, the Oldham-based firm where he had bought it in February 2011. The second was to secretly give it to Sutton. The third was to use it on British Cycling or Team Sky riders.
Jackson asked: “The third option is keep it at your home, or elsewhere, for it to be used or to be administered to an athlete as nobody would know you have got a supply?”
Freeman said: “I find that offensive in every respect. I believe in the Wada 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.”
“But that’s the GMC’s case, that you acquired it for a rider,” Jackson said. Freeman replied: “I am well aware of that.”
However, despite claiming his anti-doping credentials in the afternoon, Freeman, who has previously admitted to destroying a British Cycling laptop with a screwdriver and not keeping up-to-date medical records,
said: “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,” said Freeman.
“You talk about this being small print, Dr Freeman,” Jackson replied. “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.”
Jackson then put it directly to Freeman that acquiring banned drugs for Sutton was against Wada rule 2.6.2. “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.”
“I fully accept testosterone is a banned drug for athletes,” Freeman replied. “At the time I was thinking of Mr Sutton as a patient, not as a rider or ex-rider.”
Freeman also told the tribunal that he feared losing his job if he had stood up to Sutton. “I was frightened of Mr Sutton. I had heard the story of him knocking somebody out at a training camp in Mallorca. He often threatened me in my job and that there were people waiting to replace me. I did what I did to protect my career.”
The case continues.