This week at a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Great Britain, former British Cycling and Team Sky doctor Richard Freeman has given damning testimony about his personal conduct while he worked for the two cycling entities from 2010-2011.
Throughout the weeklong inquiry, Dr. Freeman has admitted to destroying a laptop with a screwdriver before handing it over to doping investigators; ordering and then destroying packages of banned testosterone gel in 2011; and then asking a worker at a supplement company to cover up his ordering of the prohibited substance.
Dr. Freeman also claimed that he canceled his appearance before a select committee of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport during its 2017 anti-doping inquiry because he suffered a breakdown after being questioned by Sky chairman James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s lawyer, and Team Sky officials prior to the hearing.
The inquiry into Dr. Freeman stems from the soaring British Parliamentary Select Committee’s anti-doping investigation into Team Sky and British Cycling from 2016 until 2019, which resulted from the 2016 hack of the World Anti-Doping Agency’s records by the Russian group Fancy Bears in 2016.
Dr. Freeman emerged as a central figure in the years-long drama, which eventually focused on 30 packages of testosterone gel that were shipped to the British Cycling/Team Sky headquarters at the Manchester velodrome in 2011. Dr. Freeman repeatedly dodged attempts by various panels to interview him about the delivery, citing health problems and personal reasons.
Freeman, testifying at the hearing this week, denied “knowing or believing” the testosterone gel was to be administered to athletes to improve performances, and asserted he was bullied by Shane Sutton, the former technical director at British Cycling and Team Sky head coach, to obtain it for treating erectile dysfunction.
Sutton has denied these claims.
Freeman maintained that he was unable to explain his motive for destroying the testosterone gel after being ordered to remove it from British Cycling’s headquarters by his then-boss, former medical director Steve Peters.
Simon Jackson, cross-examining for the British General Medical Council, said, “I am going to suggest that you never said that in three witness statements or any previous interview that you destroyed it that night — why is that?”
Freeman responded, “I don’t have an answer for that. I took it home that night, this is my regret that I keep playing, again and again, I decided to destroy it. I had no thought of an audit trail.”
Freeman admitted he had not read the “small-print” in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s code which prohibits athlete support staff from possessing banned substances unless in exceptional circumstances.
“My knowledge on that was very good. [But] I have to confess I had no knowledge of and I had not read the small print on possession of prohibited substances and prohibited methods — that never occurred to me,” the former Team Sky medical team member said.
“I admit to poor medical judgment. I was getting, ordering, and prescribing the Testogel for a man I considered my patient,” said Freeman, who is in jeopardy of losing his medical license. “I knew the WADA code existed and I knew the sections on the types of drugs that were banned and the methods and that was updated every year.”
Regarding the destroyed laptop, Jackson suggested Freeman destroyed it because it contained the medical records of riders Freeman had worked with, and it was thus vital to the anti-doping investigation. Freeman, however, said he tampered with the laptop because the trackpad was broken and he feared it could be hacked.
“I had seen a program about how people in India can access data on laptops,” Freeman told the inquiry. “I decided I cannot let that happen so I destroyed it.”
As to why Freeman asked a manager at health supplement company Fit4Sport, which sold the banned testosterone gel, to lie about why the testosterone gel was sent to the velodrome, Freeman did not give a reason, but only admitted that he had made the request.
The tribunal is set to run through November 27.
AFP contributed to this report.