The doctor at the centre of the testosterone scandal that has rocked British cycling is alleged to have masterminded ‘a scheme of deceit’.
Richard Freeman, the former Team Sky doctor was accused of ‘lying, dishonesty and evasion’ and launching a cover-up following his ordering of the banned substance to their Manchester Velodrome HQ in 2011.
Freeman has already admitted 18 of 22 offences but denies that he ordered 30 sachets of Testogel to be given to an athlete to improve their performance. Instead, he will claim that the gels were for former head coach Shane Sutton’s personal use and that Freeman was ‘bullied’ into ordering it for him.
Shane Sutton (right) has been accused of bullying Dr Richard Freeman (left) into prescribing testosterone, ordered to British Cycling headquarters
Sutton is pictured with Laura Kenny, Britain’s most successful Olympic female competitor in any sport, at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup in November 2012
However, that version of events was wholly rejected by the General Medical Council (GMC) whose lawyer said that all the evidence to be heard would show that the testosterone was for an unidentified athlete.
Simon Jackson, QC, opened the prosecution with details behind the trail of events when the package addressed to Freeman — which has sent shockwaves through the sport — dropped at the Velodrome and was opened by stunned ex-physio Phil Burt.
When shown the package Freeman stated: ‘We shouldn’t have this, this is a mistake.’ He then contacted Fit4Sport, the Oldham-based supplier, and persuaded Trish Meats, a manager there, to send an email saying they had sent the package in error, had asked for its return and had subsequently destroyed it — something which did not happen.
The ‘false’ email was placed into what was described as ‘a sticky folder’ and Freeman later persuaded an unaware head of medical Dr Steve Peters to speak to the press, disclosing that they now had a document which covered off the matter.
Opening, Jackson said: ‘At every stage from 2011 to the present time Dr Freeman has lied, been dishonest and given evasive answers’.
Dr Freeman posed with QC Mary O’Rourke (left) and his defence team at his tribunal this week
Left: Ex-British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman is pictured during his time with Team Sky; Right: Freeman helps Sir Bradley Wiggins after a crash in 2011
‘He was plainly not expecting the chance of it (the package) being opened by Phil Burt and since then he has involved others in his scheme of deceit,’ he added. ‘He asked Trish Meats to tell lies. Secondly, he asked Dr Peters to repeat that lie to the press. Thirdly, when he had run out of excuses two years after he was first asked to do so he named Shane Sutton as the intended recipient.’
Jackson added that the medical records of Sutton, who denies he suffered from erectile dysfunction, show no need for treatment with testosterone. He said Sutton ‘would become Dr Freeman’s scapegoat to cover up his own misconduct’ added: ‘Dr Freeman has run out of tracks and has crossed the line,’ and said he had named Sutton to a UK Anti-Doping probe without his consent.
Closing a searing session in Manchester, he emphatically rejected claims made earlier that Freeman was a ‘jobbing GP’, pointing to an email they had obtained in which he describes himself as ‘the most experienced cycling doctor in Britain’.
He also dismissed claims the gel was for Sutton. ‘(The GMC) does not need to identify the athlete,’ he said. ‘Based on all evidence tribunal will hear an athlete was the intended recipient of the Testogel — this was not a therapeutic treatment for Shane Sutton.’
On a Day Two it also emerged that a debit for the Testogel still existed on British Cycling’s account with Fit4Sport and there was also a brief discussion over whether Viagra was only used by those with erectile dysfunction.
Sutton is expected to come to the UK from China on Monday to give evidence
Jackson also said Freeman and handed out prescriptions to the families of non-riders on an ‘ad hoc’ basis and that evidence suggested he did so ‘as if he was their GP…plainly blurring the responsibilities’.
Turning his attention to shoddy record-keeping, something Freeman has already admitted, Jackson disclosed that concerns over ‘poor organisational skills’ were flagged at the Velodrome by Dr Peters.
He also said there were problems with Freeman leaving his office door open if he went to get a coffee, and with corticosteroids and confidential records that were left on his desk.
Jackson also revealed a clerical assistant was even brought in to assist him with his record-keeping.
A witness statement from Meats was also read to the hearing. In it, she confirmed that Freeman has asked her to put something in writing which stated the package was sent in error by her company and that it had been returned and destroyed.
‘There was no error on our part,’ she said. ‘If he had tried to suggest that I would have disputed it. I thought it must be some internal thing at British Cycling. British Cycling was a very important customer…he (Freeman) was a doctor and I trusted him. This made me think there was nothing sinister in what he was asking me to do. I did as he asked.’
Earlier, Mary O’Rourke QC, representing Freeman, confirmed that she would be lodging a legal request with this newspaper for information she believes it holds which she says will question Sutton’s credibility.
She also added that she did not ‘accept the factual accuracy’, of parts of Jackson’s opening.
Proceedings will continue on Monday, with Sutton expected to give evidence after flying in from Spain.
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