The doctor accused of buying testosterone for an unnamed rider while working for Team Sky and British Cycling has admitted telling “a lot of lies” about the case, a medical tribunal into his conduct heard on Tuesday.
But Dr Richard Freeman has also denied a delivery of the banned substance to the headquarters of both organisations had been intended – on his part – for use by an athlete, according to his lawyer, who claimed he had been acting at the behest of former colleague Shane Sutton.
On an explosive opening day of his rescheduled Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MTPS) hearing in Manchester, Dr Freeman’s QC, Mary O’Rourke, said her client had told “a lot of lies” about his May 2011 order of Testogel, which is at the centre of the case brought against him by the General Medical Council (GMC).
She told the three-strong MPTS panel Dr Freeman previously could “not bring himself to tell the truth, even to his lawyers” but had finally done so in a witness statement last month.
Quoting her client, who stands to lose his medical licence if the tribunal finds against him, she added: “I am here now. This is the truth.”
Dr Freeman, who quit as British Cycling team doctor in 2017 following what he last year said had been “suicidal thoughts” over various accusations made against him, had previously given evidence about the testosterone delivery during investigations by both UK Anti-Doping and the GMC.
He had even done so ahead of an adjourned MPTS tribunal into the accusations against him earlier this year, at which he failed to appear for health reasons.
Those accusations include that he: ordered 30 sachets of Testogel from Oldham-based Fit4Sport Limited with the motive of improving the performance of an athlete; made an untrue statement that the order had been made in error; requested a written confirmation that the order had been made in error five months after the delivery; and made untrue statements that the order had been intended for a non-athlete member of staff and was subsequently returned.
O’Rourke told the panel that Dr Freeman admitted ordering the Testogel but denied doing so with the intention of it being used by a rider, accusing the GMC of having “no evidence from an athlete” that this had been the case.
She alleged the order had been placed at the request of then British Cycling technical director Sutton, who had also been on the staff of Team Sky and a personal coach to Sir Bradley Wiggins.
Sutton, who denies any knowledge of the order, is among the witnesses for the GMC and is expected to give evidence against Dr Freeman during the tribunal, which is scheduled to sit until December 20.
And, in another dramatic development, the panel granted a request by Dr Freeman that he be screened from Sutton when the latter testified and that he himself be screened from the media when giving his own side of the story. He was also given permission to give evidence for no more than three hours a day.
Representing the GMC, Simon Jackson QC requested as part of the preliminary legal arguments that there be an amendment to its case against Dr Freeman in light of his September 24 witness statement.
Jackson urged the panel to look at the “history of what has been said” by Dr Freeman prior to that submission and also indicated the tribunal would hear from a leading endocrinologist who would demonstrate that the “patient” for whom Dr Freeman claims the substance was ordered had no medical need for it.
O’Rourke objected to the use of the word “patient” and said it was fairer to frame her client’s actions as a response to a request from a member of staff at the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
The hearing, which was adjourned until Tuesday, is expected to examine the circumstances around the delivery of the testosterone product, which has a long history of abuse in cycling and other sports, and an exchange of paperwork between British Cycling and Fit4Sport.
Dr Freeman – also at the centre of controversies over Wiggins’s use of Therapeutic Use Exemptions and a Jiffy bag delivered to the same rider in 2011 – is additionally accused of: administering non-urgent medical treatment to non-athlete members of staff and on three occasions not informing their GPs; failing to keep appropriate medical records and make them retrievable – including those relating to the treatment of Wiggins – after his laptop was stolen; and inappropriate management of prescription-only medicine.