British Cycling and Team Sky ordered Viagra for riders, medical tribunal hears

Tom Cary
The Telegraph
Dr Richard Freeman pictured outside the hearing in Manchester last week - PA
Dr Richard Freeman pictured outside the hearing in Manchester last week - PA

The mystery of the 2011 batch of testosterone delivered to British Cycling’s headquarters deepened on Thursday after a medical tribunal heard that Viagra may also have been part of the order.

It was also claimed that a stock of the drug, which is used to treat erectile dysfunction but may also give athletic performance benefits, was kept in the national velodrome during this period.

The revelations came during another surreal day of evidence at the medical tribunal of Richard Freeman, the former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor. 

Freeman is accused by the General Medical Council of ordering a batch of Testogel patches to the national velodrome in Manchester in 2011 “knowing or believing it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their ­athletic performance”. 

Freeman denies this. He claims he was bullied into ordering the patches by Shane Sutton, who was at that time the head coach of British Cycling and Team Sky, and that the testosterone was for Sutton’s erectile dysfunction. 

In chaotic scenes on Tuesday, Sutton denied that he suffered from that condition. Sutton also angrily refuted claims from Freeman’s lawyer Mary O’Rourke QC that he was a “a serial liar”, a “bully” and “a doper, with a doping history”. 

He ended up storming out midway through his evidence, accusing Freeman - who was sitting on the other side of a screen as he is being treated as a ‘vulnerable witness’ in this case - of being “spineless”. 

<span>Shane Sutton walked out of the hearing on Tuesday and has not returned</span> <span>Credit: Mercury Press </span>
Shane Sutton walked out of the hearing on Tuesday and has not returned Credit: Mercury Press

Sutton decided not to return to complete his evidence on Thursday, while Freeman was also absent having suffered what O’Rourke described as an “adverse reaction” to the Sutton’s outburst. 

O’Rourke said that Freeman needed to consult with his psychiatrist before continuing with the hearing. She also told the hearing that he suffers with bipolar disorder.

In their absence, Dr Steve Peters, the celebrated psychiatrist and former head of medicine at Team Sky and British Cycling, was called as a witness by the GMC. Rather than clearing anything up, though, Peters only muddied the waters.

He first of all cast doubt on Freeman’s explanation regarding the package, saying the testosterone was more likely to have been for Freeman than for Sutton. 

Sutton, he said, would have told him if he had ordered it as he was an “open book” and confided everything in him. O’Rourke suggested this confidence extended to Sutton boasting of his sexual exploits and Peters did not disagree. O’Rourke told the tribunal that Sutton was allegedly having an affair with a British Cycling masseuse around this time. “Shane Sutton has at least seven children by three or four partners,” she added.

Peters said that, ultimately, he was only speculating about the reason that Freeman ordered the patches.

"I’m not a mind reader,” he said. "It feels like I'm being asked to solve the crime. I have a man who's lied to me, another man who is untrustworthy. It's much more likely [Freeman] has used this for himself and there are reasons for that, which I don't want to go into.

"Freeman has tried to cover his tracks and it's backfired. Shane would have confided in me. He is very open. He came to me many times discussing his private life." 

<span>Sutton pictured on the boards of the Manchester Velodrome, the home of British Cycling </span> <span>Credit: PAUL COOPER </span>
Sutton pictured on the boards of the Manchester Velodrome, the home of British Cycling Credit: PAUL COOPER

Peters added that he was angry with Freeman after the latter came clean to him in 2017 about having ordered the Testogel.

Dr Peters had given an interview to The Sunday Times a few months before claiming the package had been sent in error by Oldham-based medical suppliers Fit4Sport, which was what Freeman had originally told him. 

He said he was disappointed that Freeman did not feel the need to apologise.

However, Peters displayed what many will feel was a strange lack of curiosity when he admitted he made no real attempt to find out why Freeman had ordered it. 

“I asked him why he lied to me,” Peters said. “He said it was for a member of staff. I said ‘who?’ and he said ‘Shane’. I didn’t ask him why.”

Simon Jackson QC, acting for the GMC, asked: “Did he tell you he’d been bullied into obtaining it by Shane Sutton?” “No.”

Peters partly explained his lack of curiosity by saying it was his understanding that Viagra had been part of the 2011 order. He therefore theorised that it was not intended for an athlete because they would have had no need for it. That may not be right, however. It is understood that Team Sky were among many sports teams who tested the sex pill around that time to see whether it had performance-enhancing benefits.

Equally, it might have been for sexual performance. O’Rourke put it to Peters that Viagra was regularly ordered into the velodrome. “Because athletes spending a long time in the saddle have nerve issues that require them [to take it],” she said. “So you have a stock of it in the cabinet.”

Phil Burt, the former British Cycling physiotherapist and the man who opened the 2011 Testogel package, is next to give evidence on Friday morning. 

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