Richard Freeman: Doctor accused of exploiting position in testosterone cover-up

By Dan RoanBBC sports editor
Dr Richard Freeman and defence team
Mary O'Rourke (left) is defending Dr Richard Freeman (second left) at the medical tribunal in Manchester

A former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor has been accused of exploiting his position as one of the country's top sports medics when attempting to cover-up the testosterone he ordered to the national velodrome in 2011.

Richard Freeman told a tribunal he "panicked" when asked to produce written confirmation that he had returned the banned substance to the company it had come from five months earlier.

The medic admitted he "compromised" Trish Meats - an office worker he knew at local suppliers Fit4Sport.

He said he "asked her to say the order was her error - that I'd returned it and that it had been destroyed".

In fact, Dr Freeman had secretly taken the testosterone home, saying on Thursday he "cut open the sachets and washed them down the kitchen sink" on the day it was delivered to the sport's HQ.

Dr Freeman has been accused by the General Medical Council (GMC) of ordering 30 sachets of Testogel to the National Cycling Centre in 2011 "knowing or believing" it was intended to boost an athlete's performance.

He has admitted 18 of 22 charges against him, which include initially lying to try to cover up the order, and to a UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) investigation.

But Dr Freeman denies the key accusation, saying he was bullied into ordering the drug by former British Cycling and Team Sky performance director Shane Sutton to treat his erectile dysfunction.

Sutton has denied those claims, insisting the doctor is lying.

Recalling his conversation with Miss Meats in October 2011 - with whom he said he had a "working-stroke-personal relationship" - Dr Freeman said he was "agitated. I said I needed proof".

Dr Freeman says he was asked for confirmation the drugs had been returned by his then boss, Team Sky and British Cycling's former medical director, Dr Steve Peters.

Dr Peters has told the GMC he asked for the confirmation immediately after the drugs arrived, and then repeated that request at least three times during summer 2011.

Dr Freeman disputed that version of events on Thursday, saying he had only been asked by Dr Peters in October 2011.

"I don't want in any way to disparage Mr Peters, but I don't recall those requests or I would have responded to them straight away," he said.

Describing his lies as "as a train that he couldn't stop", Dr Freeman recalled phoning Miss Meats as details of the attempted cover-up emerged for the first time.

"You used your position as a doctor and customer to request that this lady write an email that you knew to be false," said Simon Jackson QC, for the GMC.

When asked if he agreed he was "getting her to tell lies for you", Freeman answered "yes".

Under the impression the drugs had been returned without her knowledge, Miss Meats agreed to send an email to Freeman falsely confirming the testosterone had been dispatched by mistake.

The tribunal heard she recalled: "[Freeman] was clear that he wanted it to read that Fit4Sport had made the error in sending it to him, even though it was Dr Freeman who ordered and it was not an error on our part."

Miss Meats told the GMC she thought his request was due to "some internal thing at British Cycling. I had no idea what [the Testogel] was, and we'd never sold it before."

Dr Freeman said that when he received the email, he forwarded it on to Dr Peters' assistant and partner asking him to "keep a copy in the 'sticky email folder' please", insisting there was no need to mention it to his boss directly.

Dr Freeman says that six years later, he eventually confessed to Dr Peters that he had lied to him about the circumstances surrounding the delivery.

"He was profoundly disappointed," he said.

Freeman told the tribunal he explained to Dr Peters that he had destroyed the substance.

"Dr Peters said he wasn't told," replied Mr Jackson.

"The only thing you told him was that you had got it for Shane Sutton. So when he says that, is he misremembering, is he lying about that?

"Possibly," said Dr Freeman.

"I went there for a full and frank discussion, not half the story."

Earlier Dr Freeman claimed that Sutton had "exploded" and hurled expletives at him when he found out the banned substance had been discovered by a former colleague - physio Phil Burt - who showed it to Dr Peters.

"[Sutton] said 'don't drag me into it or you'll be sorry and I don't just mean losing your job'. He said he wished I'd never been born."

The hearing continues.