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Chris Froome's name dragged into Freeman tribunal

Chris Froome (Team Ineos)
(Image credit: Bettini Photo)

Chris Froome's name has been dragged into the ongoing fit-to-practice hearing into former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman after information emerged of an internal 2012 Team Sky investigation and interviews about suspicions of doping in the team. The appearance of Froome's name relates to Shane Sutton's interview, which was conducted as part of Team Sky's internal review.

There was no suggestion that Froome, who has consistently denied doping during a career that has seen him claim seven Grand Tour victories, had ever cheated.

Freeman has been accused by the General Medical Council of ordering testosterone patches in March 2011 'knowing or believing' they were to be used to enhance the performance of an athlete. He denies this and has claimed they were for former British Cycling and Team Sky coach Shane Sutton to treat erectile dysfunction. Sutton furiously denied the banned substance was for him when questioned early in the hearing.

In 2012, Team Sky’s concerns about some of their staff and possible links to doping pushed team manager Dave Brailsford and then head of medicine Steve Peters to conduct a series of interviews with their staff in an attempt to create a zero tolerance structure.  

Now dubbed as Team Sky’s 'night of the long knives', the interviews and a get-together in a London hotel followed Lance Armstrong's doping confession. Staff were quizzed about their pasts in the sport and asked to sign a declaration that they had not been involved in cheating. 

Those who confessed were asked to leave the team, with Bobby Julich, Sean Yates and Steven De Jongh all quitting their roles. Yates cited health problems for his departure but De Jongh and Julich later admitted to using the banned blood-boosting drug EPO during their professional cycling careers.

Details of Shane Sutton’s 2012 interview were read out at the Freeman hearing on Tuesday as Freeman’s barrister Mary O’Rourke, questioned her client about Sutton. 

According to the Times, O’Rourke detailed the questions put to Sutton. The Australian was asked if he had ever been involved in doping or buying or supplying banned drugs himself. O’Rourke said that Sutton said "No."

O’Rourke then said that, when questioned by Brailsford and Peters about any other concerns he might have about doping within the team, Sutton referenced "Chris Froome going to Italy on a motorbike" and his ongoing relationship with "Bobby" (Julich). 

Julich had become Froome’s lead coach in 2011 and the two worked well together in Nice before Froome went on to finish a surprise second at the Vuelta a España. He was eventually awarded overall victory in 2019 and collected his winner’s trophy at this year’s race after Juan Jose Cobo was found guilty of an anti-doping rule violation related to Biological Passport data.  

No further details from the document emerged. According to the Times, Sutton’s claims about Froome were investigated and no evidence of wrongdoing was found.

According to the Daily Mail, when asked of Sutton’s 2012 interview with Brailsford and Peters, Dr Freeman said: "I was aware of the rumours about Mr Froome but not about Mr Sutton."

Cyclingnews has contacted Sutton for comment but without response.

Last night Team Ineos told the Times that they would "not be commenting on an ongoing medical hearing".

The hearing continues with further witnesses expected to be called, including Nicole Cooke’s father, Tony.

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