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Richard Freeman risks losing licence as tribunal deems fitness to practise impaired

Richard Freeman, former Team Sky doctor
Richard Freeman, former Team Sky doctor (Image credit: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)

Former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor Richard Freeman is at risk of being struck off the British medical register after it was ruled on Thursday that his fitness to practice is impaired.

The verdict comes six days after Freeman was found guilty of ordering banned substance testosterone ‘knowing or believing’ it was for a rider.

The tribunal will now decide on a sanction, which could range from conditions being imposed on Freeman to a suspension or, in the most severe case, him losing his medical licence entirely. That sanction could come as soon as the end of this week.

Following last Friday’s verdict surrounding the testosterone delivery, which was central to the General Medical Council’s case against Freeman, the tribunal reconvened on Wednesday to discuss whether his fitness to practice was impaired in light of the findings.

"The Tribunal bore in mind that Dr Freeman's misconduct involved a number of significant elements, including serious dishonesty, as well as behaviour which could have placed patients at unwarranted risk of harm," read the verdict.

"It concluded that public confidence in the profession would be undermined if a finding of impairment were not made."

The tribunal has already gone back into session to move to the next stage of the process and discussions surrounding a sanction. Dates have been set aside in early May, but the tribunal is now expected to be able to hand down a final decision by the end of the current window on Friday, March 19.

That would finally bring the process to an end after more than two years, although there are still question marks over the testosterone delivery, who it was ordered for and a new UK Anti-Doping investigation that is underway.

On Thursday, the tribunal considered four fundamental discretions and concluded on all counts that Freeman had fallen short in the past 'and/or' was liable to do so in the future:

• Acting so as to put patient or patients at unwarranted risk of harm

• Bringing the medical profession into disrepute

• Breaching one of the fundamental tenets of the medical profession

• Acting dishonestly

The tribunal was particularly damning when it came to Freeman's dishonesty, noting that he had undertaken "no serious process of reflection or remediation" over his conduct.

Freeman initially lied during a UKAD investigation, claiming he did not order the testosterone and later obtaining a forged returns receipt from the supplier. When the tribunal finally opened, he admitted ordering it but claimed it was to treat erectile dysfunction in coach Shane Sutton, which Sutton vehemently denied.

"While noting that Dr Freeman had made admissions to some of the dishonesty, and had offered written reflections in these regards, The Tribunal considered that the purpose of these admissions were to enable him to continue to perpetuate the bigger deception which continued into this hearing," read Thursday's verdict.

Freeman's legal team were free to call witnesses as character references but did not do so. Supporting evidence came in the form of written testimonials, a certificate of attendance at an 'Introduction to Confidentiality' course last month, and an appraisal report from last year.

The tribunal found that Freeman's conduct in relation to clinical concerns and record management was remediable, but deemed that Freeman had only 'developing insight' in that regard, rather than the process being 'complete'.

On the whole, the tribunal found 'serious misconduct' in a number of areas and determined that Freeman's actions "would be considered as deplorable by members of the public and fellow practitioners."

As Features Editor, Patrick is responsible for Cyclingnews' long-form and in-depth output. Patrick joined Cyclingnews in 2015 as a staff writer after a work experience stint that included making tea and being sent to the Tour de Langkawi. Prior to that, he studied French and Spanish at university and went on to train as a journalist. Rides his bike to work but more comfortable on a football pitch.