It was Bob Arum, the boxing promoter, whose most famous quote came to mind when sifting through the evidence at Richard Freeman’s General Medical Council hearing.
Arum was snowed in near Syracuse, New Jersey, before Sugar Ray Leonard’s welterweight title defence against Larry Bonds in 1981. Drink had been taken. Talk turned to a comparison between fighters.
Arum made his argument for a certain famous name as the greatest. The following night, same again. More snow, more drink, and more of the same discussion. This time Arum made his case for an entirely different boxer. One of the party called him on it. Didn’t he say the exact opposite on Tuesday?
Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman gave new evidence on Tuesday
‘Yeah,’ said Arum, ‘but yesterday I was lying. Today I’m telling the truth.’
The story has gone down in legend as representing the unreliability of boxing promoters, and Arum in particular. It gets thrown at him in press conferences, in conversation, even in court.
Yet, the essence of it is harmless. Boxing promoters are there to sell a show and do it by any means necessary, we all know that. They bluff, they exaggerate, they contradict. The fight’s on, the fight’s off, he’s a bum, he’s the greatest, he’s taken up wrestling instead. It’s OK. It’s boxing.
Not really what you want to hear from a doctor, though, is it? Not really what you want from a man with your life in his hands.
The indication is Freeman will say he ordered Testogel for the personal use of Shane Sutton
‘I’m afraid you’ve got two weeks to live.’ ‘Oh my God, doctor. But yesterday you said I was fine.’ ‘Yes, but yesterday I was lying. Today I’m telling the truth.’
See? So that’s the first problem with Freeman’s evidence. There are certain people whose position of trust is so great that lying in a professional capacity is unacceptable.
And Freeman was acting in a professional capacity for British Cycling. He was not the jobbing GP his lawyer claimed at the GMC hearing. He is on the GMC register as a specialist in sports medicine; before starting at British Cycling and Team Sky he was with Bolton Wanderers as a doctor to the youth academy, and had a specific brief to deal with anti-doping.
In other words, he knows right from wrong. There may not have been lives at stake the day the Testogel was ordered but Freeman was a medical practitioner at his place of work.
What was written up, what it was for, the paperwork and process around the 30 sachets of Testogel delivered to the Team Sky and British Cycling headquarters at the Manchester Velodrome in 2011 is a matter of ethical principle. As is telling the truth about the purpose of the medication and its intended destination. To admit lying and covering up and now, coming clean, as if this is anything less than the latest self-serving ploy, is hard to swallow. If Freeman lied then, why should anyone believe this newest version of events?
Freeman, do not forget, has had many opportunities to give a frank account of this, and other, controversial incidents during his time as British Cycling’s doctor. He has dodged investigations and parliamentary sittings, he has written a book and given interviews around its publication. At any time the truth, as he sees it, could have come out.
The indication is that Freeman will say the Testogel was not for an athlete at all, but for Shane Sutton, the British Cycling coach, for personal, private use.
Sutton (left) pictured with Team Sky’s Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France in July 2010
Sutton will deny this, and again, in the light of Freeman’s casual acquaintance with honesty it leaves more questions than answers. For instance: why would an intelligent man, a doctor, who would clearly know the implications, have Testogel delivered to a centre of sporting excellence, an Olympic base, no less?
Testogel was one of the substances Lance Armstrong used. Testogel, in a sporting context, carries the taint of cheating, however innocent its purpose may have been. To order 30 sachets from a company in Oldham, Fit4Sport, to be delivered to the velodrome is at best careless, at worst reckless, because even having the stuff around arouses suspicion.
Only this month placing Mo Farah, Alberto Salazar and a box containing testosterone in the kitchen of the same flat was enough to cause headlines. And there is absolutely no suggestion that Farah even knew of its existence.
So why would a British Cycling doctor think the velodrome a suitable point for delivery? Who has medicine delivered to a place of work rather than a home, or a pharmacy for collection, anyway? If this was a private matter for Sutton why would he not want it privately resolved?
The complexities of this case mean it might not be resolved until late December, yet already we are in familiar territory: reputational damage. For if Freeman lied about this, what else did he lie about?
The complicated case involving Freeman isn’t expected to be resolved until late December
This is the doctor who ordered the mysterious Jiffy bag, its contents and mission still unknown due to ‘inaccurate medical records’. This is the doctor who prescribed Bradley Wiggins the corticosteroid triamcinolone under therapeutic user exemption before his 2012 Tour de France win.
It is not a good look if he now admits to telling ‘a lot of lies’ even if these events are unrelated.
For any day now British Cycling will unveil their new bike for Tokyo 2020. It might make its debut at the World Cup in Glasgow next month. Early reports suggest it will be their strangest looking bike yet, and is the work of aerodynamics expert and Cambridge University professor Tony Purnell.
He has been the head of technical development at British Cycling since 2013, operating a department known as ‘the secret squirrel club’ out of a design centre called ‘Room X’ at British Cycling’s headquarters.
And this is what we have always been led to believe. That we’re clever. We’re the brilliant ones, with our brilliant inventions and our special suits and our marginal gains. So when the same place that houses Room X, the secret squirrels and Professor Purnell also takes delivery of 30 sachets of Testogel, it rather tarnishes the image.
For there’s nothing clever about that; and lying about it, even less so.
HOW SPORTSMAIL LED THE WAY…
Sportsmail first revealed how Team Sky and British Cycling werefacing the biggest crisis in their history in March 2018, after it emerged that investigators may have found evidence that an order for a banned substance was made from the National Cycling Centre in Manchester.
Doctor Richard Freeman later admitted that there was not a ‘written medicines management policy or stock-taking system’ at either Team Sky or British Cycling in 2011.