Dr Richard Freeman told a medical tribunal he never gave injections to riders at the back of a team bus – a practice harking back to cycling’s troubled past – as he claimed Team Sky never crossed “the line”.
However, Freeman’s fit-to-practice tribunal heard that his former colleague, Dr David Hulse, had raised serious concerns over a change in Team Sky’s [now Ineos Grenadiers] medical protocols that allowed riders to have vitamin injections in their hotel rooms.
Simon Jackson QC, for the General Medical Council, read out an email sent by Hulse in 2010 in which he wrote: “I believe my position on injected nutritional products is clear. It may compromise the safety of our riders.”
Jackson added: “He also raised concerns that the practice was in fact inconsistent with Wada regulations. And that a hotel room would not be suitable for non-emergency invasive procedures and infusions of non-emergency pharmaceutical products. Do you agree?”
“No,” replied Freeman.
“Does it follow that a hotel room is a safe clinical environment?” asked Jackson.
“Obviously, the ideal would be a hospital operating theatre,” replied Freeman. “Then it would be a doctor’s clinic or a velodrome clinic. That’s what I was trying to describe. I didn’t think injections on the back of the bus were appropriate. I have never given an injection on the back of the bus. That’s what I was trying to move away from. There was all sorts of anecdotal evidence that these things had happened in cycling’s past. They were completely and utterly inappropriate.”
Freeman has accepted 18 of the 22 charges against him, including ordering banned testosterone to the velodrome in Manchester, but denies doing so knowing it would be used on a rider.
Earlier Jackson read out a statement in which Freeman said his ethics regarding professional sport were “as long as you do no harm you go to the line, even if that means considering intravenous and intra-muscular support”.
“So what are you identifying as the line there?” asked Jackson. Freeman replied: “This expression was used frequently since the inception of Team Sky. Sir Dave Brailsford said there is a line we go to every day but we never cross it.”
Freeman added that he had spoken to a doctor at the UCI, cycling’s governing body, to make sure Team Sky’s new policy did not break the rules. “It is important to me to have a supportive written comment – can you email me back,” he wrote to the UCI doctor in 2010.
When asked whether he received written confirmation, Freeman responded: “I am not being difficult but Mr Jackson, I have lost track a bit.”
The tribunal was then adjourned until .