Ex-Team Sky doctor found guilty of ordering testosterone for unnamed cyclist

London (AFP) –


Ex-Team Sky and British Cycling chief doctor Richard Freeman ordered banned testosterone knowing or believing it was to be given to a rider for the purposes of doping, a medical tribunal ruled on Friday.

Freeman, 61, accepted 18 of 22 charges against him relating to the ordering of a package of Testogel sent to British Cycling headquarters in 2011, but denied the central charge regarding its purpose.

The case, brought by the General Medical Council, which licenses doctors to practise, is a fresh blow to the reputation of Britain's flagship Olympic sport.

The verdict casts a shadow over the past successes of the British team -- who have been dominant at recent Olympics -- and the former Team Sky, who had great success at the Tour de France for a number of years. Freeman played key roles in both setups.

In making its decision, the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service said Freeman's evidence was "implausible", "dishonest" and "incapable of innocent explanation".

The hearing began more than two years ago but was delayed repeatedly by Freeman's ill health, coronavirus-related restrictions and difficulties in scheduling.

Freeman claimed the testosterone had been ordered to treat former performance director Shane Sutton's erectile dysfunction, which the Australian strenuously denied on an explosive day of testimony in 2019.

"The tribunal determined that Dr Freeman's evidence was implausible," it said in its decision. "It did not believe he ordered the Testogel for Mr Sutton."

The tribunal cited a lack of any paperwork to back up Freeman's claim that the Testogel was for Sutton and said there was no evidence that he had any need for it.

"It was clear that, on the balance of probabilities, the inference could properly be drawn that, when Dr Freeman placed the order and obtained the Testogel, he knew or believed it was to be administered to an athlete to improve their athletic performance," the tribunal said.

It also determined it had been proved that the motive for Freeman's actions was to conceal his conduct.

Freeman, who was simultaneously employed by British Cycling and Team Sky -- now Ineos Grenadiers -- between 2009 and 2015, resigned from British Cycling in 2017 because of ill health. He had already left Team Sky.

The tribunal will sit again next week to determine what sanctions he will face and whether he will be deemed unfit to continue to practise medicine.

- Doping charges -

Freeman is also facing two UK Anti-Doping (UKAD) charges regarding the ordering of the testosterone.

In a statement, UKAD chief executive Nicole Sapstead said: "UKAD can confirm that Dr Richard Freeman has been charged under the UK Anti-Doping Rules with two violations -- possession of prohibited substances and/or prohibited methods and tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control.

"While the charges are pending, Dr Freeman is subject to a provisional suspension from all sport."

Freeman has been at the centre of a number of controversies.

He took delivery of a mystery package at the 2011 Criterium du Dauphine race in France, the contents of which remain unconfirmed despite a UKAD investigation that lasted 14 months.

Freeman insisted the package contained a legal decongestant.

And he applied for controversial therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) granted to then star rider Bradley Wiggins for the powerful anti-inflammatory drug triamcinolone before the 2011 and 2012 editions of the Tour de France and the 2013 Giro d'Italia.

Wiggins, British Cycling, and Team Sky have always denied wrongdoing.