Dr Richard Freeman has claimed he was unaware of testosterone’s performance-enhancing qualities around the time he ordered the prohibited substance nine years ago.
The formerBritish Cycling and Team Sky doctor has admitted 18 of the 22 charges against him, which include ordering 30 sachets of testosterone gels to the National Cycling Centre in May 2011 and lying about it to British Cycling and UK Anti-Doping. He denies the General Medical Council’s central charge of “knowing or believing” the Testogel was to be given to a rider to aid their performance, declaring at the time he had been ignorant of the advantages the drug can have.
At his Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service fitness-to-practice hearing, Dr Freeman was asked by the tribunal chair, Mr Neil Dalton, about the drug culture within cycling in 2011 and whether the medic would have known testosterone could be used to boost performance.
“No, I wouldn’t have, really,” he told the hearing on the final day of his cross-examination that has stretched into a seventh week. “I’m not a cycling fan, I’m a doctor in sports medicine. We [the team] were focused on managing athletes and there was this mantra that we were a clean team and it was never discussed.”
When later pressed on his comments by the GMC QC Simon Jackson, Dr Freeman insisted the issue of doping had never arisen between himself and former British Cycling medical director, Dr Steve Peters. Dr Freeman, who had been in his post for 17 months when he ordered the Testogel to the Manchester Velodrome, said: “I came into cycling quite fresh. The main interest in endurance cycling was blood doping. Dr Peters and I never discussed doping.”
The hearing has already heard about how Freeman lied to colleagues that the package was sent by mistake, and that he was told by Dr Peters to get an acknowledgment of the error from the supplier Fit4Sport. While Dr Peters has told the GMC he asked for confirmation straight away and another three times over the summer of 2011, Dr Freeman contends he had only been asked that October.
“My recollection was we didn’t discuss it at the time because it wasn’t a critical incident,” Dr Freeman said. “It was much later in October. He wanted that [acknowledgment] for his sticky file. I stand by the fact I was asked to get a sticky email for the email folder, even if it challenges Dr Peters’s account.”
Asked if there was a reason why there was a reason Dr Peters might have a different recollection of events, Dr Freeman added: “I’m in a difficult position because I don’t believe Dr Peters has a false memory. I would never challenge the integrity or honesty of Dr Peters. Dr Peters was my mentor. If he had asked me for a letter, I would have got it. He is a stickler for detail. I would have expected him to drill down on me and I would have done that to get his approval.”
Dr Freeman has alleged that he was bullied into ordering the Testogel by the former British Cycling and Team Sky technical director Shane Sutton to treat erectile disfunction, claims the Australian firmly denies. “I didn’t think he had underlying medical condition but I thought he did have an underlying need to enhance, improve or maintain sexual performance,” Dr Freeman said.
He added he had “lost power” in his doctor-patient relationship with Sutton and only when the package was delivered and subsequently discovered by the former British Cycling physiotherapist Phil Burt and Dr Peters did the medic decide to change the dynamic.
“When Dr Peters said get [the package] off the premises I thought: ‘Get a grip’ and take back the doctor-patient power differential,” Dr Freeman added. “I stood up for myself. I couldn’t tell Dr Peters what went on, I couldn’t break Shane Sutton’s confidentiality, it was a real wake-up call.”