Shane Sutton, the former British Cycling (BC) head coach, submitted a secret affidavit to a newspaper that was “totally inconsistent” with evidence he gave to a parliamentary inquiry into doping in sport, a General Medical Council tribunal was told on Friday.
In the latest extraordinary twist surrounding testosterone delivered to the national team’s HQ, the legal team for former British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman claimed Sutton’s signed statement contained “a number of lies” and was secured to protect The Daily Mail from potential defamation claims by Sir Bradley Wiggins and Sir Dave Brailsford.
QC Mary O’Rourke said last night she planned to submit a legal application requesting that The Mail release Sutton’s affidavit.
That dramatic allegation surrounding Wiggins and Brailsford would suggest a breakdown in the relationship between three of the most significant figures in modern British sport.
Sutton was Wiggins’s personal coach when he won the 2012 Tour de France, with the latter having described him as a father figure who was instrumental in his historic success on the road. Brailsford was team principal of Team Sky at the time and had previously worked with Sutton at British Cycling, with the pair masterminding a stunning period of success for its track team.
Sutton, who was due to appear at the tribunal at the start of next week, has told The Daily Telegraph that he was “saddened” by what had emerged at the tribunal and said that he had helped to run “the cleanest track programmes in the world” while in charge of the British team.
In another explosive day at the tribunal, the GMC’s QC Simon Jackson detailed the shocking extent to which Freeman allegedly tried to cover up his purchase in 2011 of 30 sachets of Testogel, which contains the performance-enhancing substance testosterone.
Jackson claimed that Freeman, also a former Team Sky employee, had “at every stage, from 2011 to the present time, lied, been dishonest and given evasive answers about the Testogel. Since then he has involved others in his scheme of deceit”.
Jackson described Freeman’s management of medication at the national velodrome in Manchester as “haphazard”, with witness statements claiming that he would carry drugs around in a suitcase and distribute them on an “ad hoc” basis to riders, staff and their families. It was also said that Freeman would often leave the door open to his office, with corticosteroids and antibiotics left on the table or accessible in a cabinet.
Freeman has admitted 18 of the 22 charges relating to Testogel, including that he originally lied when denying that he ordered the substance and that he then persuaded the company which provided it – Oldham-based Fit4Sport – to send an email pretending that the package had been sent in error.
Freeman is disputing the claim that he ordered the testosterone for a non-athlete member of staff in the “knowledge or belief” that it would be passed on to a cyclist. Freeman claims instead that the substance was ordered at Sutton’s behest to treat the coach’s supposed erectile dysfunction.
Sutton insists he had no knowledge of the testosterone delivery until it was reported by a newspaper. He has also denied that he suffered from erectile dysfunction, with the GMC reporting that there was no medical records to support the claim.
Sutton was called to appear before the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee in 2016, as part of its inquiry into doping in sport.
During his testimony, Sutton was quizzed over the contents of an infamous medical package that Sky had delivered to the 2011 Criterium Du Dauphine, with contents allegedly meant for Wiggins. Sutton told the DCMS under oath that he had no direct knowledge of illicit drug-taking in cycling, whether as a coach or rider.
On Friday, O’Rourke said Sutton’s testimony to The Mail was “totally inconsistent” with that evidence. The nature of the inconsistency is not known. Sutton has always upheld his denial of knowledge of doping in cycling and has never been linked to a proven positive case of it.
O’Rourke added that The Mail had taken the statement as “an insurance policy against any potential claims for defamation by Sir Bradley Wiggins, Freeman or Sir Dave Brailsford”.
It is understood that O’Rourke hopes to persuade the tribunal that Sutton bullied Freeman into ordering the testosterone.
The QC said her information would “discredit” Sutton and call into question his “credibility, integrity and other issues”. She has also said that she has witness statements, from former BC employees Dr Steve Peters and the physiotherapist Phil Burt, which address claims of bullying at BC.