Former British Cycling and Team Sky chief doctor Richard Freeman is to be permanently struck off the medical register.
A Medical Practitioners Tribunal found Dr Freeman’s fitness to practise impaired on Thursday, and on Friday imposed the strongest possible sanction.
Dr Freeman either admitted or was found guilty on 21 of 22 charges relating to the ordering of testosterone to British Cycling headquarters in 2011 as well as poor record-keeping and inappropriate treatment of non-riders.
The central charge, which Dr Freeman denied, was that he ordered the Testogel “knowing or believing” it was to be given to a rider for doping purposes.
In a damning ‘facts decision’ last week, the tribunal dismissed Dr Freeman’s defence and the extent of his dishonesty was cited as a key factor in its decision to erase his name from the medical register.
The sanctions decision read: “The tribunal considered that Dr Freeman’s behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with continued registration.
“The tribunal has therefore determined that erasure is the only sufficient sanction which would protect patients, maintain public confidence in the profession and send a clear message to Dr Freeman, the profession and the public that his misconduct constituted behaviour unbefitting and incompatible with that of a registered doctor.”
The only remaining decision to be made was whether Dr Freeman would be able to continue practising during the 28-day period in which he is permitted to appeal to the High Court.
Dr Freeman has been working as a GP in Lancashire as part of the coronavirus vaccination programme and his QC, Mary O’Rourke, argued the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic meant he should be allowed to carry on in that role for now.
That, too, was dismissed by the tribunal, though, and Dr Freeman was suspended immediately. If he appeals, he will remain suspended pending the result. If not, his name will be erased in 28 days.
The tribunal said: “In this case, the tribunal has determined that Dr Freeman’s name be erased from the medical register. It has outlined its reasons for that determination, including Dr Freeman’s planned, repeated and persistent dishonesty, conduct in relation to which he displayed no real insight.
“Absenting such insight, the tribunal could not be confident that such dishonest conduct would not be repeated.
“Against that background, having already determined that Dr Freeman’s behaviour was fundamentally incompatible with being a doctor, the tribunal considered it would be inconsistent with the basis of its sanction determination to allow him to continue to practise as a doctor.”
O’Rourke said an appeal to the High Court was “highly likely”, with the medic and his legal team taking particular exception to the tribunal’s conclusion that Shane Sutton was a credible and consistent witness.
Dr Freeman claimed the Testogel was ordered to treat the former performance director’s erectile dysfunction, which Sutton vociferously denied before storming out during a tumultuous day of evidence in 2019.
O’Rourke said: “As you know, he (Dr Freeman) strongly disputes your conclusions. He thinks you’ve got it wrong and particularly in respect of Shane Sutton. For you to describe Shane Sutton in the terms you do is really stunning.
“You described him as intemperate but neglected to deal with the fact that he threatened Dr Freeman at least three times in this room and threatened me once. If that didn’t say all that you needed to know, what did?
“It’s highly likely that Dr Freeman will exercise his right to appeal.”
Freeman later issued a statement, in which he said: “As my legal team has made clear, I disagree vehemently with the determination of the tribunal.
“I have the right of appeal and will now consider that option with the benefit of further legal advice. No further statements will be issued before that process is completed.”