Richard Freeman to appeal against being struck off as testosterone saga continues

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

Richard Freeman is to appeal against being struck off the UK medical register, according to a report in The Guardian (opens in new tab), with the former Team Sky and British Cycling doctor trying to clear his name after being found guilty of ordering the banned substance testosterone in 2011 for an unnamed rider. 

The appeal is expected to be formally made at the Manchester high court, with the two-day hearing likely to take place in the final months of 2021. 

The Guardian reports that the medical defence union, which paid for Freeman’s legal fees during the tribunal process, has opted not to fund his appeal. However, Mary O’Rourke QC will continue to represent him on a no-win no-fee basis. Her costs will be paid by the General Medical Council (GMC) if Freeman is successful.

It appears Freeman’s appeal will be based on a number of grounds, in an attempt to overturn the burden of proof applied by the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS), with special focus on the evidence given by former British Cycling and Team Sky technical director Shane Sutton.   

During an aggressive exchange in one of the Manchester tribunal hearings, which sparked accusations of bullying, Sutton reportedly said to Freeman: "He’s hiding behind a screen, which is spineless. Richard, you’re a spineless individual."

Sutton walked out of the hearing but his evidence was deemed credible by the MPTS.

Freeman worked for Team Sky and British Cycling between 2009 and 2017 as senior doctor but struggled with record keeping and other aspects of his role. He eventually admitted to 18 of the 22 charges tabled by the GMC, including buying banned testosterone, lying to the UK Anti-Doping Agency, and keeping haphazard records.

He denied ordering the testosterone 'knowing or believing' it was for a rider, but the MPTS found him guilty on that charge. Freeman’s lies surrounding the testosterone delivery were the most significant factor that led to him being struck off the British medical register, which stopped him working as a doctor.

He initially claimed, during an earlier UK Anti-Doping investigation, that he did not order the 30 sachets of Testogel, and even obtained a forged receipt from the supplier to say the package had been returned. However, once the tribunal opened, he admitted ordering it but claimed it was to treat erectile dysfunction in Shane Sutton, which Sutton vehemently denied. Freeman later claimed he washed the gels down the sink.

"The extent of his dishonesty in relation to the Testogel – the number of lies Dr Freeman has told, the range of people and professional bodies to whom he has told them, the sustained period over which they have been told, and the number of people whose professional reputation he was prepared to damage to save his own - was a particularly significant aggravating factor in the case," read the verdict.

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