Actualité du dopage

Richard Freeman won't defend himself against anti-doping charges

02/08/2023 - - Matt Lawton

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Decision leaves panel to press ahead with ruling that could amount to first doping ban for actions of a staff member during tenure of Sir Dave Brailsford at Team Sky and British Cycling

A doctor central to the success at Team Sky and British Cycling is facing a ban of at least four years after declining the opportunity to appear at a hearing to defend himself against charges for two alleged breaches of anti-doping rules.

Richard Freeman, who in January lost his High Court appeal against a tribunal's decision to strike him from the medical register, was due to attend a National Anti-Doping Panel hearing last month.

But The Times understands the physician, who was the medical chief for the all-conquering British cycling team at both the 2012 and 2016 Olympics — and helped Sir Bradley Wiggins secure a controversial medical exemption certificate for triamcinolone before he won the 2012 Tour de France — informed UK Anti-Doping (Ukad) that he would not be representing himself. It leaves the panel to press ahead with ruling on a case that could amount to the first doping ban for the actions of a staff member during the tenure of Sir Dave Brailsford at Team Sky and British Cycling.

Freeman was found guilty of ordering banned testosterone “knowing or believing” it was to be used to dope a rider when he appeared before a Medical Practitioners Tribunal in 2021, with Ukad then confirming that he had been charged with two alleged breaches of anti-doping rules.

In July that year, Freeman's decision to appeal the ruling led to Ukad pausing its inquiry until the outcome of the case. But Mr Justice Fordham ruled in January this year that there was “nothing wrong” with the tribunal's findings.

Freeman, 63, admitted ordering 30 sachets of Testogel to the Manchester Velodrome that was the headquarters of both the Olympic and professional road teams in May 2011, and lying to cover his tracks. Those lies even extended to an interview with Ukad, for which he is now facing sanction.

While the identity of the rider for whom the testosterone was ordered remains unknown, a doping ban for Freeman would cast a further shadow over all the success enjoyed by two teams that at one stage dominated on the professional road circuit as well as the Olympic velodrome.

Freeman denied the central charge of “knowing or believing” the testosterone was to be given to an unnamed rider to improve their athletic performance. But his defence was dismantled by the General Medical Council's legal team and, in his 38-page High Court judgment, Mr Justice Fordham said: “There is nothing within the tribunal's approach, reasoning or conclusions . . . which was ‘wrong'; still less any respect which would undermine as ‘wrong' the overall conclusion.

“In all the circumstances and for all these reasons, the appeal is dismissed.”

In March 2021, Ukad responded to the tribunal judgment by stating that Freeman had 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”.

Even in Freeman's absence, Ukad would still need to prove its case to the anti-doping panel. Freeman claimed, under cross-examination, that he had taken the Testogel sachets home and poured them down the sink when it was something he had not detailed either in an interview with Ukad in 2017 or in the statements he submitted to the medical tribunal.

The tribunal also heard of a laptop being destroyed before being handed over to the anti-doping investigation, as well as a change in culture at Team Sky after a poor first season on the road in 2010. Freeman said there was a call by the riders to recruit “cycling doctors” and debate among medical staff over the introduction of controversial methods such as IV recovery.

In his main witness statement, Freeman admitted that he “lied about the events to Ukad, to my solicitor and legal team”, which in Ukad's case points to tampering. Counsel for the General Medical Council accused him of using “planned and calculated lies” as part of a “cover up” to conceal his purchase of the Testogel sachets.

Freeman and Ukad have been approached for comment.

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