Friday 22 February 2019

Former British Cycling and Team Sky medic accused of ordering a large quantities of testosterone for rider

Former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Former Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Matt Slater

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman will face misconduct charges brought by the General Medical Council (GMC) at an independent tribunal starting on February 6 in Manchester.

The tribunal, which is scheduled to run until March 5, will hear claims Dr Freeman ordered large quantities of testosterone, a performance-enhancing drug banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), to be delivered to the National Cycling Centre in May 2011 but then repeatedly tried to cover his tracks when questioned about it.

According to pre-hearing information published by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, the GMC claims Dr Freeman obtained the 30 sachets of Testogel, a topical treatment, "to administer to an athlete to improve their athletic performance".

The man at the centre of cycling's 'Jiffy bag scandal', Dr Freeman resigned from British Cycling in October 2017 after he told the organisation he was too ill to face disciplinary action for poor medical record-keeping.

Dr Freeman, who published a book on sports medicine last year, has denied all doping charges in the past but this tribunal has the potential to throw a dark shadow over British cycling's golden decade.

As well as the allegations surrounding the Testogel delivery, the tribunal will also hear claims that Dr Freeman "inappropriately provided medical treatment that did not constitute first aid to non-athlete members of staff".

The former Bolton Wanderers doctor has made no secret of the informal private practice he ran for members of staff at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester but he has been accused of not informing the general practitioners of three patients about what drugs he was giving them.

And like British Cycling, the GMC also believes he did not keep appropriate records, particularly in relation to prescription-only medication, and that he compromised patient confidentiality when his laptop was stolen whilst on holiday in Greece in 2014.

But it will be the allegations surrounding the Testogel delivery that threaten to be most damaging for Dr Freeman's future career as a doctor and - by implication - the reputations of every recent rider on the Great Britain Cycling Team and Team Sky.

According to the pre-hearing information, when Dr Freeman was first asked about the delivery by a fellow member of staff, he denied ordering the Testogel and said it must have been a mistake by the supplier.

But a week after the delivery, it is claimed he denied making the order and said it must have been a mistake by the company involved, the Oldham-based Fit4Sport Limited.

Five months later, in October 2011, it alleged he contacted Fit4Sport to ask for written confirmation it had been sent in error, returned and destroyed, "knowing that this had not taken place". It is claimed he showed this false email to others knowing it to be "untrue".

Later, when questioned about the delivery by UK Anti-Doping in 2017, it is claimed Dr Freeman lied when he claimed it was for a member of British Cycling's staff, and not a rider, and that it had been returned to the supplier.

Press Association Sport understands that Dr Freeman, who has struggled with depression since 2016, has been working as a GP for much of the last year and he intends to fight for his career.

That said, it should be pointed out that he failed to appear before a parliamentary inquiry into the Jiffy bag issue in December 2016, pulled out of several interviews with UKAD and did not show up to give evidence on behalf of former GB track sprinter Jess Varnish at her employment tribunal in December.

A British Cycling spokesman said: "British Cycling suspended Dr Richard Freeman in March 2017 and subsequently initiated an investigation into his conduct as an employee of the federation.

"British Cycling requested that Dr Freeman be interviewed as part of the investigation: however, he declined to make himself available for interview, citing grounds of ill health. In September 2017, he resigned from British Cycling.

"British Cycling has raised concerns relating to Dr Freeman's fitness to practice with the General Medical Council and has continued to support the GMC's investigation, in which the federation is a co-referrer."

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