Team Ineos Grenadiers have looked to distance themselves from Dr Richard Freeman after their former senior doctor was found guilty of ordering the banned drug testosterone “knowing or believing” it was to be given to an unnamed rider to improve their athletic performance.
Freeman ordered the drug in 2011 and worked at both Team Sky and British Cycling as part of both teams’ medical staff at the time. Freeman changed his story multiple times over the order of the banned drug, first claiming he didn’t order the product, then stating that it was delivered by mistake, before finally saying then that it was to help Shane Sutton’s erectile dysfunction.
The 46-page guilty verdict was handed down at the end of the two-year Medical Practitioners Tribunal (MPTS) hearing in Manchester on Friday with Freeman's claim that the drug was for Sutton. He was found to be both dishonest and without innocent explanation.
No rider has been named at this point, and while there have been calls by a British member of Parliament for Dave Brailsford to be immediately suspended from his senior role at Ineos Grenadiers, the team have centered their brief reaction around Freeman.
“The Team fully supports the work of the GMC and it is very clear from their report that Richard Freeman fell short of the ethical standards required of him as a doctor and acted dishonestly,” a statement from Ineos Grenadiers said.
“However the Team does not believe that any athlete ever used or sought to use Testogel or any other performance-enhancing substance. No evidence has been provided that this ever happened or that there has been any wrongdoing by any athlete at any point.” The Freeman hearing has now adjourned until March 17 when it will then resume at the second stage for the tribunal to consider whether Freeman's fitness to practice is impaired.
UK Anti-Doping have already charged Freeman with "possession of a prohibited substance" and "tampering or attempted tampering with any part of doping control" and that case is set to conclude in May.
According to a report in the Times, it is understood that Freeman has denied the first of the two charges but has admitted to lying to UKAD investigators, which amounts to tampering with an anti-doping investigation. Freeman is facing up to a four-year ban if found guilty.
Freeman resigned from British Cycling in 2017, but was charged by the GMC two years later. Under the statute of limitations, UK Anti-Doping had until May this year to charge Freeman.
“We will continue to give our full support and co-operation to UKAD, as we have done throughout this process, as they continue to investigate his conduct. We will not be making any further comment,” read the final line from the Ineos statement.
British Cycling also released a statement in the wake of the Freeman verdict with CEO, Brian Facer acknowledging the huge shockwaves the news meant for the sport.
“This is a day for sober reflection and we know that will be felt by the thousands of people who race their bikes in this country and love our sport, from the Great Britain team to the grassroots. We also know that they will share our view that all those who work in our sport must adhere to the highest standards of ethical behavior,” Facer said.“
The finding that the 2011 delivery of testosterone gel was intended for the illegal enhancement of a rider’s performance is extremely disturbing and will rightly be investigated by UK Anti-Doping, whose work will have our wholehearted support.
“The wider actions of Dr Freeman described in the tribunal fall a mile short of the standards we expect. Since suspending Dr Freeman from his employment by British Cycling four years ago, we have made substantial changes to the way we provide medical services to riders competing for Great Britain, amid much wider improvements to our governance which we believe now put us at the forefront of our sector.”
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