12 November 2019

Shane Sutton to give evidence at Dr. Freeman’s hearing

Shane Sutton, former Technical Director at British Cycling, is due to give evidence today at a Medical Practitioner’s Tribunal Service (MPTS) hearing into allegations of misconduct against Dr. Richard Freeman, former doctor to British Cycling and Team Sky. The MPTS has approved an application to screen Dr. Freeman from Sutton during the hearing, as he has alleged that Sutton bullied him into ordering 30 sachets of Testogel from Fit4Sport on 16 May 2011.

It is understood that Dr. Freeman’s lawyer, Mary O’Rourke, intends to ask the General Medical Council (GMC) to use a freedom of information request under Section 35a of the 1983 Medical Act on the Daily Mail newspaper. It is understood that the document requested is a 2016 affidavit signed by Sutton, held in a safe by the newspaper.

It is understood that Sutton was the source for a series of Daily Mail articles which ran in 2016, and the affidavit is the paper’s insurance policy against any future defamation claims by Sir Bradley Wiggins, Dr. Freeman or Sir Dave Brailsford, former Performance Manager at British Cycling and Team Sky. O’Rourke argues that the relevance of the affidavit is that it contradicts evidence given by Sutton to a Culture, Media and Sport (CMS) Committee hearing of the UK Parliament.

In March 2018, in its Combating Doping in Sport Report (PDF below), the CMS Committee stated that it ‘believed’ allegations that British Cycling and Team Sky had abused the therapeutic use exemption (TUE) system in order to improve the performance of key athletes. Sutton, who was Sir Bradley Wiggins’ coach at the time, told the CMS Committee that the coaching staff were led by the medical team and that at the time, it was common for athletes to use TUEs to “find gains”.

This ‘belief’ was that TUEs were being abused was supported by evidence provided by an anonymous witness ‘who held a senior position at Team Sky at the time of events under investigation’. That source also provided the CMS Committee with ‘confidential material’ regarding the medicines policy at Team Sky during the period covered by Wiggins’ TUE certificates for use of triamcinolone during competition periods. The allegations regarding use to Testogel emerged later.

The source told the CMS Committee that Wiggins and a smaller group of riders were training separately from the rest of the team and were using corticosteroids to ‘lean down’ in preparation for races. It is understood that as the whistleblower’s full evidence is confidential, it has not been seen by Wiggins or Team Sky, who have not had the chance to reply.

The whistleblower’s evidence contradicts Sutton’s assertions that he was led by the medical team. ‘At that time, the culture was if Shane told people to do something you just did it’, reads a statement provided to the CMS Committee (PDF below). ‘At the committee interview, Shane hid behind trusting the medical team – this is utter nonsense, he directed the medical team, he constantly bullied Richard Freeman’.

Sutton has previously faced allegations regarding his conduct towards other staff members. It is understood that other submissions relating to Sutton were due to be published by the CMS Committee alongside the Report, and these cast doubt on his credibility as a witness. They were withdrawn at the last moment due to the circumstances of the people making those submissions and have never been published, despite promises to do so. 

Dr. Freeman has admitted 18 of the 22 charges against him. He has admitted ordering 30 sachets of Testogel from Fit4Sport Limited on 16 May 2011. He has admitted falsely denying having made the order and falsely claiming that it had been made in error. He also admitted 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.

In an interview with UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) on 17 February, Dr. Freeman said that the Testogel had been ordered for a non-athlete member of staff. It has yet to be determined if this is also a false claim. Dr. Freeman denies intentionally placing the order for an athlete to cheat, claiming that Sutton bullied him into ordering it to treat erectile dysfunction. This appears to tally with the evidence provided by the anonymous whistleblower suggesting that Sutton directed the medical team. 

The prosecution claim that Sutton’s medical records don’t support the claim that it was to treat erectile dysfunction. Dr. Freeman has already admitted to the MPTS hearing that he treated non-athlete members of staff without access to their medical records. As such, Sutton may have instructed Dr. Freeman to order Testogel by claiming erectile dysfunction without it being mentioned in his medical records. What he did with that Testogel has yet to be determined.

Dr. Freeman has also admitted failing to keep adequate records, instead using ‘a number of different laptops’ when he did keep records of treatment administered. The MPTS has already proven that on the evening of 27/28 August 2014, a British Cycling laptop containing the records of ‘a professional cyclist’ was stolen from Dr. Freeman, who had failed to back these records up. 

The MPTS has proven that 30 sachets of Testogel were ordered and not returned to the supply company and destroyed, as Dr. Freeman initially claimed. However, without adequate medical records, proving where that Testogel ended up and how it was used may prove problematic. 

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