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Ex-Team Sky doctor was found guilty of ordering testosterone for unnamed cyclist. Richard Freeman ordered banned testosterone knowing or believing it was to be given to a rider for the purposes of doping, a medical tribunal ruled on Friday.
A central plank of Freeman’s defense was that he ordered the testosterone to treat former performance director Shane Sutton’s erectile dysfunction –something the Australian vehemently denied while giving evidence in 2019. But in its ruling the tribunal said it “did not believe he ordered the Testogel for Mr Sutton”.
Sutton, in a statement of his own, said he whole affair “saddened” him, adding he had been “used as a scapegoat”. Freeman, 61, accepted 18 of 22 charges against him relating to the ordering
of a package of Testogel sent to British Cycling headquarters in 2011, but denied the central charge regarding its purpose. The case, brought by the General Medical Council, which licenses doctors to
practice, is a fresh blow to the reputation of Britain’s flagship Olympic sport.
Sutton said “this episode has cast a huge shadow over the success we enjoyed both at Team Sky and British Cycling”.
The British team have been dominant at recent Olympic Games, while the former Team Sky had great success at the Tour de France for several years. Freeman played key roles in both set-ups.
In making its decision, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, who did not name the rider for whom they thought the testosterone was intended, also said Freeman’s evidence was “implausible”, “dishonest” and “incapable of innocent explanation”.
The hearing began more than two years ago but was delayed repeatedly by Freeman’s ill-health, coronavirus-related restrictions and difficulties in scheduling.
Freeman, who was simultaneously employed by British Cycling and Team Sky — now Ineos Grenadiers — between 2009 and 2015, resigned from British Cycling in 2017 because of ill-health. He had already left Team Sky. The tribunal will sit again next week to determine what sanctions he will
face and whether he will be deemed unfit to continue to practice medicine.
Freeman is also facing two UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) charges regarding the ordering of the testosterone. In a statement, UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said: “While the charges are pending, Dr Freeman is subject to a provisional suspension from all sport.”
Freeman has been at the center of a number of controversies. He took delivery of a mystery package at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race in France, the contents of which remain unconfirmed despite a UKAD investigation that lasted 14 months.
Freeman insisted the package contained a legal decongestant. And he applied for controversial therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) granted to then star rider Bradley Wiggins for the powerful anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone before the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Tour de France and the
2013 Giro d’Italia.
Wiggins, British Cycling, and Team Sky, including team chief Dave Brailsford, have always denied wrongdoing. “I’d like to stress that neither I nor Sir Dave Brailsford knew about the testosterone order,” insisted Sutton, who added he hoped the UKAD investigation would reveal the intended recipient of the testosterone.
Brailsford has yet to comment publicly on the verdict but Ineos Grenadiers said in response it was clear from the ruling that Freeman had “acted dishonestly”. Ineos, however, stressed they did not believe any of their riders had ever used or sought to use Testogel or any other performance enhancing substance, with “no evidence” provided that this had happened or that there had been any
wrongdoing by any athlete at “any point”.
Both Ineos and British Cycling, who found Friday’s verdict “extremely disturbing”, promised to support UKAD in their ongoing investigation.