23 November 2020

Dr. Freeman hearing set to continue into its third year

The hearing into allegations of medical malpractice against Dr. Richard Freeman, former doctor to British Cycling and Team Sky, is set to continue into 2021. ‘Given the stage the hearing is at we don’t expect it to conclude in this session and further dates will be required in 2021’, read an emailed statement from the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS). 

Dr. Freeman has admitted 18 of 22 misconduct charges against him. MPTS hearings began a month late on 5 March 2019 after Dr. Freeman failed to appear on 6 February 2019, but have been dogged by continued delays. The hearing continues today in Manchester.

Dr. Freeman has admitted ordering 30 sachets of Testogel from from Fit4Sport Limited on 16 May 2011. He also admits falsely denying having made the order and falsely claiming that it had been made in error. He admits pressuring Fit4Sport into falsifying an email exchange to state that the order had been made in error, and falsely claiming that the Testogel had been returned to the company and destroyed.

Dr. Freeman has said that the Testogel was ordered for a non-athlete member of staff. It has yet to be determined if this is a false claim or not. He denies the General Medical Council’s (GMC) charge of ‘knowing or believing’ that the Testogel was to be given to a rider to aid performance. 

He has previously claimed that Shane Sutton, former Technical Director of British Cycling, bullied him into ordering it to treat erectile dysfunction. The GMC claim that Sutton’s medical records don’t support the claim that Dr. Freeman’s order was to treat erectile dysfunction.

Sutton stormed out of a MPTS hearing in November last year, after denying ordering Testogel and arguing there was no evidence that he had injected testosterone, as had also been claimed. He denied that the Testogel was ordered for him to treat erectile dysfunction and denied ordering it himself. However, he did not appear to conclusively deny that it was ordered for him. 

“I would have no problem in telling you it was for me”, The Guardian reported him as saying. “You are telling the press I can’t get a hard on – my wife wants to testify that you are a bloody liar […] I was asked to come here and answer whether I ordered Testogel. I did not.”

Another non-athlete member of staff at the time was Dr. Steve Peters, a Psychiatrist who worked with British Cycling. He is also a successful Masters athlete, however there is nothing to suggest that the Testogel was ordered for him.

Dr. Freeman pulled out of giving evidence to a UK Parliamentary inquiry into doping, citing ill health…

Dr. Freeman failed to appear at a Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee inquiry into doping in sport citing ill health (see right), however he did submit written evidence. ‘My practice has never been compromised by coaches or management ever at Team Sky or British Cycling’, he wrote. ‘Without the ability to work with even the most demanding of coaches, I don’t think I could work so effectively as the team doctor in both teams particularly as I was the doctor dealing with the most challenging decisions in both teams’. This appears to contradict his account of being pressured into malpractice.

From p.75 of Dr. Freeman’s book…

Last week, Dr. Freeman answered “No, I wouldn’t have, really”, when he was asked if he would have known that testosterone could be used to boost performance. However, in his 2018 book The Line – Where Medicine and Sport Collide, he acknowledges that it builds muscle (see right), a useful trait in endurance sports such as cycling.

As a natural, androgenic steroidal hormone present in both males and females (in lesser quantities), testosterone presents a particular conundrum for sport. It is a common misconception that testosterone is banned in sport. As a naturally (endogenous) occurring hormone, it cannot be prohibited. However, the administration of external, (exogenous) or synthetic forms of testosterone is prohibited. 

Because so many synthetic forms of testosterone feature on the World Anti-Doping Agency’s (WADA) Prohibited List, it is difficult to get a clear estimate as to what percentage of adverse analytical findings (AAF) result from exogenous testosterone use each year. However in 2006, WADA’s testing statistics show 1,124 cases involving testosterone, 26% of the 4,332 adverse analytical findings (AAFs) reported in that year. 

Detail from Tyler Hamilton’s affidavit to USADA…

The use of testosterone patches in elite cycling is also well documented. In his affidavit to the US Anti-Doping Agency, Tyler Hamilton admitted using testosterone patches under the direction of Dr. Michele Ferrari (see right). He also documents use of testosterone patches in his book, The Secret Race. In an interview for The Sunday Times in January 2011, Floyd Landis told Paul Kimmage that he had also used testosterone patches (click here for Velo News’ transcript of that interview). That was just four months before Dr. Freeman placed his order with Fit4Sport.

The dosage of Testogel described in the email exchange between Dr. Freeman and Fit4Sport matches that prescribed to him by Dr. Mark Bonar, cyclist Dan Stevens previously told The Sports Integrity Initiative. Information about Dr. Bonar was given to UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) in 2014 by Stevens, who in 2015 went to the Cycling Independent Reform Commission (CIRC) after UKAD decided that his evidence did not warrant a reduction for ‘substantial assistance’ as defined in the World Anti-Doping Code, and issued him with a two-year ban. UKAD subsequently reduced the sanction after the CIRC recommended reducing Stevens’ ban, but did not publicise its decision. In an April 2016 Sunday Times exposé, Dr. Bonar was recorded stating that he had supplied substances to over 150 athletes, including Premier League footballers, an England cricketer, British Tour de France cyclists, a British boxing champion, tennis players, martial arts competitors and more. 

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