The “credibility and integrity” of Shane Sutton, the former British Cycling and Team Sky head coach, will be called into question by lawyers acting for the teams’ former doctor, Richard Freeman, at a medical tribunal in Manchester.
Freeman’s legal team said on Thursday that it had gathered information that would allow it to “go into his credibility and integrity and other issues” when Sutton takes the stand.
Sutton left British Cycling in 2016 after 12 years having masterminded the success of one of the most celebrated teams in British sport, enjoying phenomenal Olympic success. He was also instrumental in several of Team Sky’s Tour de France victories.
Freeman has admitted 18 of 22 charges relating to the delivery of testosterone to the national team’s headquarters in 2011. He has claimed that the banned performance-enhancing substance was ordered at Sutton’s behest, but the Australian has insisted he knew nothing about it.
On an explosive opening day of the General Medical Council tribunal, QC Mary O’Rourke said she had statements from three witnesses to support her attempt to discredit Sutton, with key evidence submitted to her this week. O’Rourke also said that bullying had been addressed in witness statements from Dr Steve Peters, the former British Cycling head of medicine, and Phil Burt, the former BC physiotherapist.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal that at least one former rider was approached earlier this week about sharing evidence with the tribunal.
The cyclist, a former team-mate of Sutton’s at the PMS-Dawes team, told The Telegraph on Thursday night that he had allowed for his sworn affidavit to be assessed after being approached by an intermediary. The evidence also names at least one prominent employee of British Cycling and another individual who, until recently, worked at the ruling body.
There is no suggestion that Sutton has broken any rules and he has always denied doing so, as both rider and coach.
O’Rourke also said she hoped to use information regarding Sutton that was submitted to a 2018 parliamentary inquiry into doping in sport, but not published. It was conducted by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, chaired by Damian Collins. The prospective whistle-blower’s testimony was also passed on to Collins.
O’Rourke also revealed that she was considering a “35A” legal application that would attempt to force an unnamed national newspaper to disclose written documentation relating to Sutton that would allegedly discredit him.
Freeman last week admitted telling “a lot of lies” in previous GMC and UK Anti-Doping investigations into the 30 sachets of testosterone gel delivered to the national velodrome in Manchester. However, he has now admitted the majority of the charges.
Freeman was initially charged with ordering the testosterone for athletes, although that was lowered on Thursday to ordering it for a non-athlete member of staff in the “knowledge or belief” that it would be given to an athlete.
O’Rourke said she was “very disappointed” by the amended charge. It is understood that she hopes to prove that Freeman was bullied into ordering the package from Oldham-based Fit4Sport Limited. It is likely to be more difficult to disprove the new allegation against Freeman.
Freeman has also admitted lying when he originally claimed that the order had been made in error. He has also admitted that, five months later, he had requested an email from Fit4Sport to say that the order was made in error. Dr Freeman quit as British Cycling team doctor in 2017 following what he last year said had been “suicidal thoughts”. He failed to appear at the adjourned medical tribunal earlier this year and at the parliamentary inquiry for health reasons. It emerged yesterday that Peters and Burt are also set to be called as witnesses, most likely towards the end of next week. Eighteen witness statements will be read out at the tribunal.
Sutton, who was due to appear as a witness early next week, was personal coach to Sir Bradley Wiggins when he won the 2012 Tour and is currently working with a Chinese team. He lost his job as technical director of British Cycling after an internal review upheld an allegation that he used sexist language in the role.