The former chief doctor of British Cycling and Team Sky, Richard Freeman, has been found guilty of ordering banned testosterone “knowing or believing” it was to be given to an unnamed rider to improve their athletic performance.
The seismic verdict, announced today by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester, will send shockwaves through British sport and raise questions about the decade-long success of British Cycling and Team Sky.
Announcing the verdict the chair of the MPTS, Neil Dalton said: “The tribunal had found that you, Dr Freeman placed the order, and obtained the Testogel, knowing or believing it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance. The motive for your action was to conceal a conduct.”
The protracted case, which was expected to last a month when it began in February 2019, dragged on for more than two years.
The General Medical Council had maintained throughout the hearing that Freeman “crossed the line and went way beyond it” by purchasing banned testosterone for an unnamed rider – and then used a “pattern of lies” to cover up his tracks. The MPTS, after considering all the evidence, found that on the balance of probabilities, that Freeman had indeed done so.
Freeman, who worked for Team Sky and British Cycling between 2009 and 2017, had already admitted to 18 of the 22 charges against him including purchased banned testosterone, lying to the UK Anti-Doping Agency, providing inappropriate treatment to non-riding staff, and keeping haphazard records.
However he contested four charges all relating to the delivery of testosterone – banned in and out of competition – to British Cycling and Team Sky HQ in Manchester in June 2011.
While accepting that he had ordered 30 sachets of Testogel, Freeman denied the central charge of ordering the testosterone knowing or believing it would be administered to an unnamed rider.
Instead he claimed he was bullied into ordering it by the former British Cycling and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton to treat his erectile dysfunction – a claim Sutton strenuously denied.
Friday’s verdict does not yet mark the end of the tribunal. It will sit again for three days next week to assess whether Freeman licence to practice is impaired – and then again in April to deliberate on whether he should lose his doctor’s licence or face any other punishments for his behaviour.
Freeman will also face two UK Anti-Doping charges related to ordering banned testosterone, including possession of a prohibited substance and tampering.
A charge of tampering covers an attempt to subvert any aspect of doping control, including an investigation. Freeman is understood to have contested part of the charges, and has requested a hearing.