What next for Dr Richard Freeman and cycling?

Eleanor Crooks, PA
·3-min read

The long-running hearing into former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman’s fitness to practise medicine is nearing its conclusion.

More than two years after it started, a Medical Practitioners Tribunal gave a damning verdict last week, finding Dr Freeman guilty of all but one of 22 charges, and could determine sanctions on Friday.

Here, the PA news agency answers the key questions around the case.

Dr Richard Freeman (second left) stands with his defence team outside the building in Manchester where the long-running hearing is taking place
Dr Richard Freeman (second left) stands with his defence team outside the building in Manchester where the long-running hearing is taking place (Eleanor Crooks/PA)

What were the charges?
Dr Freeman admitted lying to colleagues and UK Anti-Doping regarding the ordering of a package of Testogel in 2011, as well as other charges regarding his record keeping and the treatment of non-athlete members of staff. The central charge, which he denied, was that he ordered the package “knowing or believing it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance”.

What was his defence?
Dr Freeman claimed he was bullied into ordering the Testogel by former performance director Shane Sutton to treat the Australian’s erectile dysfunction. This was strenuously denied by Sutton, who called Dr Freeman a liar during a headline-grabbing day of testimony in 2019 before storming out.

Dr Freeman claimed he had ordered the testosterone for former performance director Shane Sutton, pictured
Dr Freeman claimed he had ordered the testosterone for former performance director Shane Sutton, pictured (Martin Rickett/PA)

What did the tribunal conclude?
The tribunal simply did not believe Dr Freeman’s version of events. They described his defence regarding Sutton as “implausible”. There was no smoking gun in terms of evidence Dr Freeman knew or believed the Testogel had been intended for doping purposes but that did not stop the tribunal drawing that conclusion, saying: “The tribunal found his conduct incapable of innocent explanation.”

What does this mean for cycling?
British Cycling brought the case with the GMC but there is no doubt this is another blow to the already tainted reputation of one of Britain’s recent sporting success stories. A medical tribunal concluding that a prohibited substance was deliberately ordered to British Cycling headquarters for doping purposes raises all manner of questions around who else might have known and who the intended recipient was. The governing body and Ineos Grenadiers, formerly Team Sky, have sought to distance themselves from Dr Freeman’s conduct but this is unlikely to go away any time soon.

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What sanctions is he facing?
On Thursday, the tribunal determined Dr Freeman’s fitness to practise is impaired because of his misconduct. The judgment called Dr Freeman’s actions “deplorable” and concluded: “Public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made.” The General Medical Council has called for Dr Freeman to be permanently struck off. A decision could come as early as Friday morning.

Is that the end?
In a word, no. Dr Freeman, who is currently helping with the Covid-19 vaccination programme in Lancashire, is also facing two charges from UKAD regarding the ordering of the testosterone and is provisionally suspended from working in sport. He and his defence team are already considering an appeal regarding the tribunal’s judgment. Dr Freeman’s QC Mary O’Rourke told the tribunal on Wednesday: “As you know, we disagree vehemently with your findings.”