12th March 2021

Dr. Freeman ordered Testogel for a British cyclist

Dr. Richard Freeman has been found guilty of ordering Testogel which he knew or suspected would be used to improve a British Cyclist’s performance, then lying about it and falsifying documents in an attempt to conceal his conduct. Dr. Freeman had already admitted 18 of the 22 charges levelled by the General Medical Council (GMC) against him, but contested four charges based around him ‘knowing or believing’ that the Testogel would be given to a rider to aid performance. Today’s Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS) Ruling also found his claim that the Testogel was for a non-athlete to be false.

MPTS – not an anti-doping Tribunal

MPTS hearings began a month late on 5 March 2019, after Dr. Freeman failed to appear on 6 February 2019. Hearings will continue on 17 March, when the MPTS will consider whether Dr. Freeman’s fitness to practise medicine is impaired because of his misconduct. Further hearings are scheduled for 4-7 May.

The MPTS is designed to assess a doctor’s fitness to practise medicine. It wasn’t designed to assess whether through his actions and explanations, Dr. Freeman was attempting to cover for wrongdoing by other people at British Cycling and/or Team Sky. However, it did asses what motivated Dr. Freeman to take such a massive risk in ordering a prohibited substance to the Manchester Velodrome in October 2011, where Great Britain’s flagship Team Sky was then based. 

Shane Sutton

Shane Sutton…

Dr. Freeman had alleged that Shane Sutton, former Technical Director at British Cycling, bullied him into ordering the Testogel. The MPTS could find no direct evidence that Sutton had bullied Dr. Freeman.

‘Each witness made essentially the same point’, reads the Ruling. ‘Namely, that Mr Sutton could be a scratchy and irascible character and, when under pressure, he would indeed engage in bullying behaviour. However, up to and including the time in question (April/May 2011), neither one had witnessed Mr. Sutton specifically threaten or bully Dr. Freeman, nor had Dr. Freeman ever disclosed that Mr Sutton had threatened or bullied him. 

‘On the balance of the evidence, therefore, the Tribunal was not persuaded that undisclosed incidents of bullying and threats had already taken place, and were taking place, such as to form the context to events in April/ May 2011 […] On the basis of all the above, just as the Tribunal did not find a context of threats and bullying in 2011 that might otherwise explain Dr Freeman’s medically incoherent action in ordering the Testogel; neither did it find on balance that, insofar as their relationship deteriorated in later years, it resulted in Dr Freeman feeling cowed, and his actions inhibited, in the way he now seeks to suggest.’

Dr. Freeman’s book…

The MPTS raised three doubts regarding the credibility of Sutton as a witness. It found that he had lied about not having read Dr. Freeman’s book ‘The Line: where medicine and sport collide’; and it doubted his claim that he had limited knowledge of the use of testosterone patches by Lance Armstrong and Floyd Llandis. A third reason to doubt his credibility is redacted.

The Ruling also reveals that Matt Lawton, then a journalist with the Daily Mail, had refused to answer a subpoena and give evidence to the MPTS. The Daily Mail also refused to comply with a request to produce relevant documents filed under Section R35A of the Medical Act 1983. The Daily Mail and Lawton published a series of articles based around the delivery of a medical package (or ‘jiffy bag’) to Sir Bradley Wiggins in 2011. 

It is understood that the document requested is an affidavit signed by Sutton, held in a safe at the Daily Mail offices, which acts as its insurance policy against any future defamation claims by Sir Bradley Wiggins, Dr. Freeman, or Sir Dave Brailsford, former Performance Director at British Cycling and Team Sky. Dr. Freeman’s legal team argued that it should be inferred that the refusal to supply such documents suggested that Sutton was the intended recipient of the Testogel. The MPTS disagreed. ‘On the information provided to the Tribunal, though, it was unpersuaded of the logical necessity to arrive at that inference on the basis of those refusals’, reads the Ruling.

Dishonest

The MPTS also concluced that Dr. Freeman had been dishonest. ‘Bearing in mind the breadth of Dr Freeman’s dishonesty and the number of people he had pulled into it (Ms. Meats, Dr. Peters and Mr. Sutton), the Tribunal found his conduct incapable of innocent explanation’, read the Ruling. ‘It was clear that, on the balance of probabilities, the inference could properly be drawn that when Dr Freeman placed the order and obtained the Testogel, he knew or believed it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance’.

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. 

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

There are reasons to doubt Dr. Freeman’s evidence to the MPTS. He failed to appear at a 2017 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…

In November last year, 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.

Today’s Ruling outlines that Dr. Freeman has been found guilty of:

• Ordering a substance that is prohibited in sport (testosterone/Testogel);
• Stating that he had not made such an order;
• Arguing that the order had been sent in error;
• Knowing that this was untrue;
• Asking Fit4Sport to compose an email stating that Testogel had been sent in error, had been returned to Fit4Sport, and destroyed;
• Knowing that this was untrue;
• Using the false email to convince others that the Testogel had been sent in error, had been returned to Fit4Sport, and destroyed;
• Knowing this to be untrue;
• Telling UKAD that Testogel had been ordered for a non-athlete;
• Telling UKAD that the Testogel had been returned;
• Knowing this to be untrue;
• Ordering the Testogel knowing or believing it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their performance;
• Providing medical treatment to non-athletes without access to their records, when they should have been referred to a GP;
• Failing to inform GPs of treatments administered;
• Failing to maintain adequate records at British Cycling and Team Sky, including stock checks, medicine use, expiry dates, dosages, quantity, batch numbers, and start dates of treatments;
• Failing to record patient records on the British Cycling electronic system or in hard form;
• Failing to maintain patient records for medicine ordered, stored, or prescribed;
• Storing records on a number of different laptops and on loose paper, when maintained;
• Failing to maintain prescription only medication records;
• Failing to back up records on a laptop proven to be stolen on 27/28 August 2014.

UKAD charges

Following today’s MPTS ruling, UKAD charged him with two anti-doping rule violations (ADRVs). “UKAD can confirm that Dr Richard Freeman has been charged under the UK Anti-Doping Rules (UK ADR) with two violations – Possession of Prohibited Substances and/or Prohibited Methods and Tampering or Attempted Tampering with any part of Doping Control”, said UKAD CEO Nicole Sapstead in an emailed statement. “While the charges are pending, Dr Freeman is subject to a provisional suspension from all sport”.

Dr. Freeman was Team Doctor for British Cycling from 2010 to 2015 and again from October 2016 to October 2017. He was Lead Team Doctor for Team Sky from January 2010 to 2016. Given the numerous failures by Dr. Freeman outlined by the MPTS, questions may also need to be asked about why British Cycling and Team Sky were prepared to tolerate his malpractice for so long.

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