Dr Freeman tribunal: Shane Sutton evidence ruled admissible

By Olly FosterBBC Sport at the tribunal in Manchester
Mary O'Rourke and Richard Freeman
Mary O'Rourke QC (left) has been representing Dr Richard Freeman

Evidence from former British Cycling performance director Shane Sutton will be considered by a medical tribunal in the case against former British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman.

Australian Sutton stormed out of the hearing in Manchester last month after repeatedly denying claims by Dr Freeman's lawyer Mary O'Rourke that he is "a liar, a doper and a bully".

O'Rourke wanted Sutton's testimony disregarded as it was incomplete and said she was "surprised" by the panel's decision.

The tribunal's decision, which came after a week of deliberation, is a blow to Dr Freeman's case and O'Rourke says that without Sutton's testimony the case against her client falls apart.

"I am surprised by your decision on Mr Sutton's evidence," she said. "It's not what I anticipated."

O'Rourke is attempting to throw out four charges against Freeman including the central charge that he ordered testosterone gel knowing or believing that it was to be administered to an athlete .

She says the General Medical Council does not have "a scintilla of evidence that it was meant for an athlete".

She added that UK Anti-doping and British Cycling found no such evidence in their own investigations.

"It is an ambitious and misconceived charge with no evidence to support it," she said.

In coming to its decision about the Sutton evidence, the panel questioned O'Rourke's conduct towards Sutton.

"Sutton's unwillingness to continue to be cross-examined arose directly out of his perception of unfairness and bullying engendered by Ms O'Rourke's approach to him, an approach he perceived to have begun even before he had entered the hearing room," the panel said in its decision.

"There was an objective and understandable basis to warrant Mr Sutton forming the said perception."

The panel also said Sutton's evidence "is not sole or decisive regarding the outstanding matters".

The tribunal panel also ruled that an interview Dr Freeman did with BBC Sports editor Dan Roan in July 2018 can be admitted as evidence.

The GMC legal team successfully argued that a redacted transcript of the interview was "fair and relevant" to the case and that it could be admitted as evidence of a "previous inconsistent statement".

Former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Freeman gave an interview to the BBC in July 2018

O'Rourke was critical of the panel's decision, saying they "have got it really wrong " and that their decision is "skewered". She also said the decision to include Sutton's evidence and the BBC interview is "legally flawed".

She also raised concerns about the length of time the hearing is taking, reminding the panel of her own commitments in 2020 and also a skiing holiday for Dr Freeman that has been prescribed by his doctor.

That leaves only one week in January to hear this case should it go beyond the scheduled finish of 20 December.

The tribunal has been called by the General Medical Council to assess whether Freeman is fit to practice medicine.

Freeman is facing 22 charges, including the claim that he ordered testosterone to British Cycling headquarters in 2011 knowing or believing it was intended for an athlete.

He has denied ordering 30 sachets of Testogel to the National Cycling Centre for performance-enhancing purposes, but has admitted to making the order and trying to cover it up.

Freeman, who left British Cycling in 2017, says he was bullied into ordering the Testogel for Sutton to treat erectile dysfunction, a claim the latter denies.

O'Rourke will continue her submission when the panel returns on Monday morning.